Knox’s exile, his labors in Dieppe, Geneva, and Frankfurt, and his return to Scotland to advance the Reformation there.
This section consists of Chapters 4-6. They are listed below. To go directly to any particular chapter click on the link to that chapter. Otherwise you can scroll down as you read chapter by chapter.
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Chapter 6
From the year 1554, when he left England, to the year 1556, when he returned to Geneva, after visiting Scotland
Providence, having more important services in reserve for Knox, made use of the urgent importunities of his friends to hurry him away from those dangers to which, had he been left to the determination of his own mind, his zeal and fearlessness would have prompted him to expose himself. No sooner did he reach a foreign shore than he began to regret the course which he had been induced to take. When he thought upon his fellow preachers, whom he had left behind him immured in dungeons, and the people lately under his charge, now scattered abroad as sheep without a shepherd, he felt an indescribable pang, and an almost irresistible desire to return and share in the hazardous but honorable conflict. Although he had only complied with the divine direction, “when they persecute you in one city, flee ye unto another,” and although in his own breast he stood acquitted of cowardice, yet he found it difficult to divest his conduct of the appearance of that weakness, and was afraid that it might operate as a discouragement to his brethren in England, and induce them to make sinful compliances with a view of saving their lives.
On this subject we find him unbosoming himself to Mrs. Bowes in his letters from Dieppe. “The desire that I have to hear of your continuance with Christ Jesus, in the day of this his battle (which shortly shall end to the confusion of his proud enemies), neither by tongue nor by pen can I express, beloved mother. Assuredly, it is such, that it vanquisheth and overcometh all remembrance and solicitude which the flesh useth to take for feeding and defense of herself. For, in every realm and nation, God will stir up some one or other to minister those things that appertain to this wretched life, and, if men will cease to do their office, yet will he send his ravens, so that in every place, perchance, I may find some fathers to my body. But, alas! where I shall find children to be begotten unto God by the word of life, that can I not presently consider; and therefore the spiritual life of such as some time boldly professed Christ (God knoweth), is to my heart more dear than all the glory, rides, and honor in earth; and the falling back of such men, as I hear daily to turn back to that idol again, is to me more dolorous than, I trust, the corporal death shall be, whenever it shall come at God’s appointment. Some will ask, Then why did I flee ? Assuredly I cannot tell, but of one thing I am sure, the fear of death was not the chief cause of my fleeing. I trust that one cause hath been to let me see with my corporal eyes that all had not a true heart to Christ Jesus, that, in the day of rest and peace, bare a fair face. But my fleeing is no matter; by God’s grace I may come to battle before that all the conflict be ended. And haste the time, O Lord, at thy good pleasure, that once again my tongue may yet praise thy holy name before the congregation, if it were but in the very hour of death!”—”I would not bow my knee before that most abominable idol for all the torments that earthly tyrants can devise, God so assisting me, as his Holy Spirit presently moveth me to write unfeignedly. And albeit that I have, in the beginning of this battle, appeared to play the faint-hearted and feeble soldier (the cause I remit to God), yet my prayer is that I may be restored to the battle again. And blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am not left so bare without comfort, but my hope is to obtain such mercy, that, if a short end be not made of all my miseries by final death (which to me were no small advantage), that yet, by Him who never despised the sobs of the sore afflicted, I shall be so encouraged to fight, that England and Scotland shall both know that I am ready to suffer more than either poverty or exile for the profession of that doctrine, and that heavenly religion, whereof it has pleased his merciful providence to make me, among others, a simple soldier and witness-bearer unto men. And therefore, mother, let no fear enter into your heart, as that I, escaping the furious rage of these ravening wolves that, for our unthankfulness, are lately loosed from their bands, do repent any thing of my former fervency. No, mother; for a few sermons by me to be made within England, my heart at this hour could be content to suffer more than nature were able to sustain; as, by the grace of the most mighty and most merciful God, who only is God of comfort and consolation through Christ Jesus, one day shall be known.”
In his present sequestered situation, Knox had full leisure to meditate upon the surprising vicissitudes in his lot during the last seven years—his singular call to the ministry and employment at St. Andrews—his subsequent imprisonment and release—the sphere of usefulness in which he had been placed in England, with the afflicting manner in which he was excluded from it, and driven to seek refuge as an exile in that country to which he had formerly been carried as a prisoner. This last event seemed in a special manner to summon him to a solemn review of the manner in which he had discharged the sacred trust committed to him, as “a steward of the mysteries of God.” It will throw light on his character, and may not be without use to such as occupy a public station in the Church, to exhibit the result of his reflection on this subject.
He could not deny, without ingratitude to Him who had called him to be his servant, that his qualifications for the ministry had been in no small degree improved since he came to England; and he had the testimony of his own conscience, in addition to that of his numerous auditors, that he had not altogether neglected the gifts bestowed on him, but had exercised them with some measure of fidelity and painfulness. At the same time he found reason for self-accusation on different grounds. Having mentioned in one of his letters the reiterated charge of Christ to Peter, “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs,” he exclaims, “Oh, alas! how small is the number of pastors that obeys this commandment. But this matter will I not deplore, except that I, not speaking of others, will accuse myself that do not, I confess, the uttermost of my power in feeding the lambs and sheep of Christ. I satisfy, peradventure, many men in the small labors I take, but I satisfy not myself. I have done somewhat, but not according to my duty.” In the discharge of private duties, he acknowledges that shame, and the fear of incurring the scandal of the world, had sometimes hindered him from visiting the female part of his charge, and administering to them the instruction and comfort which they craved. In public ministrations, he had been deficient in fervency and fidelity, in impartiality, and in diligence. He could not charge himself with flattery, and his “rude plainness” had given offense to some, but his conscience now accused him of not having been sufficiently plain in admonishing offenders. His custom had been to describe the vices of which his hearers were guilty in such colors that they might read their own image; but, being “unwilling to provoke all men” against him, he had restrained himself from particular application. Though his “eye had not been much set on worldly promotion,” he had sometimes been allured by affection for friends and familiar acquaintances, to reside too long in some places, to the neglect of others which had an equal, or perhaps stronger, claim on his labors. Formerly, he thought he had not sinned, if he had not been idle; now he was convinced that it was his duty to have considered how long he should remain in one place, and how many hungry souls were starving elsewhere. Sometimes, at the solicitation of friends, he had spared himself, and devoted to worldly business, or to bodily recreation and exercise, the time which ought to have been employed in the discharge of his official duties. “Besides these,” says he, “I was assaulted, yea infected, with more gross sins, that is, my wicked nature desired the favors, the estimation, and praise of men; against which, albeit that sometimes the Spirit of God did move me to fight, and earnestly did stir me (God knoweth I lie not) to sob and lament for these imperfections, yet never ceased they to trouble me when any occasion was offered; and so privily and craftily did they enter into my breast, that I could not perceive myself to be wounded till vainglory had almost got the upper hand. O Lord! be merciful to my great offence; and deal not with me according to my great iniquity, but according to the multitude of thy mercies.”
Such was the strict scrutiny which Knox made into his ministerial conduct. To many the offenses of which he accused himself will appear slight and venial, while others will perceive in them nothing worthy of blame; but they struck his mind in a very different light, in the hour of adversity and solitary meditation. If he, whose labors were so abundant as to appear to us excessive, had such reason for self-condemnation, how few are there in the same station who may not say, “I do remember my faults this day!”
He did not, however, abandon himself to melancholy and unavailing complaints. One of his first cares, after arriving at Dieppe, was to employ his pen in writing suitable advices to those whom he could no longer instruct by preaching and conversation. With this view, he transmitted to England two short treatises. The one was an exposition of the sixth Psalm, which, at the request of Mrs. Bowes, he had begun to write in England, but had not found leisure to finish. It is an excellent practical discourse upon that portion of Scripture, and will be read with peculiar satisfaction by those who have been trained to religion in the school of adversity. The other treatise was a large letter, addressed to those in London and other parts of England, among whom he had been employed as a preacher. The drift of it was to warn them against abandoning the religion which they had embraced, or giving countenance to the idolatrous worship now erected among them. The reader of this letter cannot fail to be struck with its animated strain, when he reflects that it proceeded from a forlorn exile, in a strange country, without a single acquaintance, and ignorant where he would find a place of abode or the means of subsistence. As a specimen of elevated piety, and the most fervid eloquence, I cannot refrain from quoting the conclusion of the letter, in which he addresses their consciences, their hopes, their fears, and adjures them, by all that is sacred, and all that is dear to them, as men, as parents, and as Christians, not to start back from their good profession, and plunge themselves and their posterity into the gulf of ignorance and idolatry.
“Allace! sall we, efter so many graces that God has offerit in our day is, for pleasure, or for vane threatnying of thame whome our hart knaweth and our mouthes have confessit to be odious idolateris, altogidder without resistance turne back to our vomit and damnabill ydolatrie, to the perdition of us and our posteritie? O horribill to be hard! Sall Godis halie preceptis wirk no greater obedience in us? Sall nature no otherwayis molifie our hartis? Sall not fatherlie pitie overcum this cruelties? I speik to you, O natural fatheris! Behold your children with the eie of mercie, and considder the end of thair creatioun. Crueltie it were to saif your selves, and damn thame. But, O! more than crueltie, and madnes that cannot be expressit, gif [if], for the pleasure of a moment, ye depryve yourselves and your posteritie of that eternall joy that is ordanit for thame that continewis in confessioun of Christis name to the end. Gif natural lufe, fatherly affectioun, reverence of God, feir of torment, or yit hoip of lyfe, move you, than will ye ganestand that abominabill ydol; whilk, gif ye do not, then, allace! the sone [sun] is gone doun, and the lyht is quyte lost, the trumpet is ceissit, and ydolatrie is placeit in quietnes and rest. But gif God sall strenthin you (as unfainedlie I pray that his Majestie may), then is their but ane dark clude overspred the sone for ane moment, whilk schortlie shall vanische, sa that the beames efter salbe seven fauld mare bryht and amiable nor they were befoir. Your patience and constancie salbe a louder trompit to your posteritie than were the voces of the prophetis that instructit you; and so is not the trompit ceissit sa lung as any baldlie resistith ydolatrie. And, thairfoir, for the tender mercies of God, arme yourselves to stand with Christ in this his schorte battell.
“Let it be knawn to your posteritie that ye wer Christianis, and no ydolateris; that ye learnit Chryst in tyme of rest, and baldlie professit him in tyme of trubill. The preceptis, think ye, are scharpe and hard to be observit; and yet agane I affirme, that comparit with the plagis that call assuredlie fall upon obstinat vdolateris, they salbe fund easie and lycht. For avoyding of ydolatrie ye may perchance be compellit to leave pour native contrie and realme, but obeyris of ydolatrie without end salbe compellit to burne in hell; for avoyding ydolatrie your substance salbe spoillit, but for obeying ydolatrie heavenly ryches sal be lost; for avoyding ydolatrie ye may fall into the handis of earthlie tirantis, but obeyeris, manteaneris, and consentaris to ydolatrie sall not eschaip the handis of the liveing God; for avoyding of ydolatrie your children salbe depryvit of father, friendis, ryches, and of rest, but by obeying ydolatrie they sall be left without God, without the knawledge of his word, and without hoip of his kingdome. Considder, deir brethrene, that how mekill mair [much more] dolorous and fearfull it is to be tormentit in hell than to suffer trubill in erth, to be depryvit of heavenlie joy than to be rubbitt [robbed] of transitorie ryches, to fall in the hands of the liveing God than to obey manis vane and uncertain displeasure, to leif oure children destitute of God than to leif them unprovydit before the world—sa mekill mair feirful it is to obey ydolatrie, or by dissembling to consent to the same, than by avoiding and flying from the abominatioun, to suffer what inconvenient may follow thairupon.
“Ye feir corporall deth. Gif nature admitit any man to live ever, than had your feir sum aperance of reasone. But gif corporall deth be commoun to all, why will ye jeoparde to lois eternall lyfe, to eschaip that which neither ryche nor pure, nether wyse nor ignorant, proud of stomoke nor febill of corage, and finally, no earthlie creature, by no craft nor ingyne [wit] of man, did ever avoid. Gif any eschapit the uglie face and horribill feir of deth, it was thay that baldlie confessit Chryst befoir men. Why aucht the way of lyfe to be so fearful by reasone of any pane, considering that a great number of oure brethrene hes past befoir ws, by tyke dangeris as we feir. A stout and prudent marinell, in tyme of tempest, seeing but one or two schippis, or like weschells to his, pass throughout any danger, and to win a sure harberie, will have gud esperance [hope], by the like wind, to do the same. Allace! sall ye be mair feirfull to win lyfe eternall, than the natural man is to save the corporall lyfe? Hes not the maist part of the sanctis of God from the begynning enterit into thair rest, by torment and trubillis? And yit what complayntis find we in thair mouthis, except it be the lamenting of thair persecuteris? Did God comfort thame? and sall his Majestie despyse us, gif, in fichting againis iniquitie, we will follow thair futstepis? Hie will not.”
On the last day of February, 1554, he set out from Dieppe, like the Hebrew patriarch of old, “not knowing whither he went,” and “committing his way to God,” traveled through France to Switzerland. A correspondence had been kept up between some of the English reformers and the most noted divines of the Helvetic Church. The latter had already heard with the sincerest grief, of the overthrow of the Reformation, and the dispersion of its friends, in England. On making himself known, Knox was cordially received by them, and treated witty the most affectionate hospitality. He spent some time in Switzerland, visiting the particular churches, and conferring with the learned men of that country; and embraced the opportunity of submitting to them certain difficult questions, which were suggested by the present conjuncture of affairs in England, and about which his mind had been greatly occupied. Their views with respect to these coinciding with his own, he was confirmed in the judgment which he had already formed for himself.
In the beginning of May he returned to Dieppe, to receive information from England, a journey which he repeated at intervals as long as he remained on the Continent. The kind reception which he had met with, and the agreeable company which he enjoyed during his short residence in Switzerland, had helped to dissipate the cloud which hung upon his spirits when he landed in France, and to open his mind to more pleasing prospects as to the issue of the present afflicting events. This appears from a letter written by him at this time, and addressed “To his afflicted brethren.” After discoursing of the situation of the disciples of Christ during the time that he lay in the grave, and of the sudden transition which they experienced, upon the reappearance of their Master, from the depth of sorrow to the summit of joy, he adds, “The remembrance thereof is unto my heart great matter of consolation. For yet my good hope is, that one day or other, Christ Jesus, that now is crucified in England, shall rise again, in despite of his enemies, and shall appear to his weak and sore troubled disciples (for yet some he hath in that wretched and miserable realm); to whom he shall say, “Peace be unto you; it is I, be not afraid.”
His spirit was also refreshed at this time by the information that he received of the constancy with which his mother-in-law adhered to the Protestant faith. Her husband, it appears, took it for granted that she and the rest of the family had consciences equally accommodating with his own. It was not until she had evinced, in the most determined manner, her resolution to forsake friends and native country, rather than sacrifice her religion, that she was released from his importunities to comply with the Roman Catholic religion. Before he went to Switzerland, Knox had signified his intention, if his life was spared, of visiting his friends at Berwick. When he returned to Dieppe, he had not relinquished the thoughts of this enterprise. It is likely that his friends had, in their letters, dissuaded him from it; and, after cool consideration, he resolved to postpone an attempt, by which he must have risked his life without the prospect of doing any good.
Wherefore, setting out again from Dieppe, he repaired to Geneva. The celebrated Calvin was then in the zenith of his reputation and usefulness in that city, and having completed its ecclesiastical establishment, and surmounted the opposition raised by those who envied his authority, or disliked his system of doctrine and discipline, was securely seated in the affections of the citizens. His writings were already translated into most of the languages of Europe; and Geneva was thronged with strangers from England, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and even from Spain and Italy, who came to consult him about the advancement of the Reformation, or to find shelter from the persecutions to which they were exposed in their native countries. The name of Calvin was respected by none more than the Protestants of England; and, at the desire of Archbishop Cranmer, he had imparted to the Protector Somerset and to Edward VI his advice as to the best method of advancing the Reformation in that kingdom. Knox was affectionately received by him as a refugee from England, and an intimate friendship was soon formed between them, which subsisted until the death of Calvin in 1564. They were nearly of the same age; and there was a striking similarity in their sentiments, and in the more prominent features of their character. The Genevan reformer was highly pleased with the piety and talents of Knox, who, in his turn, entertained a greater esteem and deference for Calvin than for any other of the reformers. As Geneva was an eligible situation for prosecuting study, and as he approved much of the religious order established in that city, he resolved to make it the ordinary place of his residence during the continuance of his exile.
But no prospect of personal safety or accommodation could banish from his mind the thoughts of his persecuted countrymen. In the month of July he undertook another journey to Dieppe, to inform himself accurately of their situation, and to learn if he could do anything for their comfort. The tidings he received on this occasion tore open those wounds which had begun to close. In Scotland everything was dark and discouraging. The severities used against the Protestants of England daily increased, and, what was still more afflicting to him, many of those who had embraced the truth under his ministry had been induced to return to the communion of the Popish Church. In the agony of his spirit, he wrote to them, setting before them the destruction to which they exposed their immortal souls by such cowardly desertion, and earnestly calling them to repentance. Under his present impressions, he repeated his former admonitions to his mother-in-law, and to his wife, over whose religious constancy he was tenderly jealous. “By pen will I write (because the bodies are put asunder to meet again at God’s pleasure) that which, by mouth, and face to face, ye have heard, that if man or angel labor to bring you back from the confession that once you have given, let them in that behalf be accursed. If any trouble you above measure, whether they be magistrates or carnal friends, they shall bear their just condemnation, unless they speedily repent. But now, mother, comfort you my heart (God grant ye may) in this my great affliction and dolorous pilgrimage; continue stoutly to the end, and bow you never before that idol, and so will the rest of worldly troubles be unto me more tolerable. With my own heart I often commune, yea, and, as it were, comforting myself, I appear to triumph, that God shall never suffer you to fall in that rebuke. Sure I am that both ye would fear and eschame to commit that abomination in my presence, who am but a wretched man, subject to sin and misery like to yourself. But, O mother! though no earthly creature should be offended with you, yet fear ye the presence and offense of Him, who, present in all places, searcheth the very heart and reins, whose indignation, once kindled against the disobedient (and no sin more inflameth his wrath than idolatry doth), no creature in heaven nor in earth is able to appease.”
He was in this state of mind when he composed the Admonition to England, which was published about the end of this year. Those who have censured him as indulging in an excessive vehemence of spirit and bitterness of language usually refer to this tract in support of their charge. It is true that he there paints the persecuting Papists in the blackest colors, and holds them up as objects of human execration and divine vengeance. I do not now stop to inquire whether he was chargeable with transgressing the bounds of moderation prescribed by reason and religion, in the expression of his indignation and zeal, or whether the censures pronounced by his accusers, and the principles upon which they proceed, do not involve a condemnation of the temper and language of the most righteous men mentioned in Scripture, and even of our Savior himself. But, I may ask, is there no apology for his severity to be found in the character of the persons against whom he wrote, and in the state of his own feelings, lacerated, not by personal sufferings, but by sympathy with his suffering brethren, who were driven into prisons by their unnatural countrymen, “as sheep for the slaughter,” to be brought forth and barbarously immolated to appease the Roman Moloch? Who could suppress indignation in speaking of the conduct of men, who, having raised themselves to honor and affluence by the warmest professions of friendship to the reformed religion under the preceding reign, now abetted the most violent measures against their former brethren and benefactors? What terms were too strong for stigmatizing the execrable system of persecution coolly projected by the dissembling, vindictive Gardiner, the brutal barbarity of the bloody Bonner, or the unrelenting, insatiable cruelty of Mary, who, having extinguished the feelings of humanity, and divested herself of the tenderness which characterizes her sex, continued to urge to fresh severities the willing instruments of her cruelty, after they were sated with blood, and to issue orders for the murder of her subjects, until her own husband, bigoted and unfeeling as he was, turned with disgust from the spectacle?
On such a theme ’tis impious to be calm; Passion is reason, transport temper here.
Oppression makes a wise man mad; but (to use the words of a modern orator, with a more just application) “the distemper is still the madness of the wise, which is better than the sobriety of fools. Their cry is the voice of sacred misery, exalted, not into wild raving, but into the sanctified frenzy of prophecy and inspiration.”
Knox returned to Geneva, and applied himself to study with all the ardor of youth, although his age now bordered upon fifty. It seems to have been at this time that he made himself master of the Hebrew language, which he had no opportunity of acquiring in early life. It is natural to inquire by what funds he was supported during his exile. However much inclined his mother-in-law was to relieve his necessities, the disposition of her husband appears to have put it greatly out of her power. Any small sums which his friends had advanced to him, before his sudden departure from England, were exhausted, and he was at this time very much straitened for money. Being unwilling to burden strangers, he looked for assistance to the voluntary contributions of those among whom he had labored. In a letter to Mrs. Bowes, he says, “My own estate I cannot well declare; but God shall guide the footsteps of him that is wilsome, and will feed him in trouble that never greatly solicited for the world. If any collection might be made among the faithful, it were no shame for me to receive that which Paul refused not in the time of his trouble. But all I remit to his Providence that ever careth for his own.” I find that remittances were made to him by particular friends, both in England and Scotland, during his residence on the Continent.
Meanwhile, the persecution growing hot in England, great numbers of Protestants had made their escape from that kingdom. Before the close of the year 1554, there were on the Continent several hundred Englishmen of good education, besides others of different ranks, who had preferred religion to country, and voluntarily encountered all the hardships of exile, that they might hold fast the profession of the Protestant faith. The foreign reformed churches exhibited, on this occasion, an amiable proof of the spirit of their religion, and amply recompensed the kindness which England had shown to strangers during the reign of Edward. They emulated one another in exertions to accommodate the unfortunate refugees who were dispersed among them, and endeavored, with the most affectionate solicitude, to supply their wants and alleviate their sufferings. The principal places in which the English exiles obtained settlements were Zurich, Basle, Geneva, Arrow, Embden, Wesel, Strasburg, Duysburg, and Frankfort.
Frankfort on the Maine was a rich imperial city of Germany, which, at an early period, had embraced the Reformation, and befriended Protestant refugees from all countries, so far as this could be done without coming to an open breach with the emperor, by whom their conduct was watched with a jealous eye. There was already a church of French Protestants in that city. On the fourteenth of July 1554, the English who had come to Frankfort obtained from the magistrates the joint use of the place of worship allotted to the French, with liberty to perform religious service in their own language. This was granted upon the condition of their conforming, as nearly as possible, to the mode of worship used by the French Church, a prudent precaution, dictated by the political situation in which the city was placed. The offer was gratefully accepted by the English, who came to a unanimous agreement that they would omit the use of the surplice, the litany, the audible responses, and some other ceremonies prescribed by the English liturgy, which, “in those reformed churches, would seem more than strange,” or which were “superstitious and superfluous.” Having settled this point in the most harmonious manner, elected deacons and a temporary pastor, and agreed upon certain rules of discipline, they wrote a circular letter to their brethren who were scattered through different places, informing them of the agreeable settlement which they had obtained, and inviting them to participate in their accommodations at Frankfort, and unite with them in prayers for the afflicted Church of England. The exiles at Strasburg, in their reply to this letter, recommended to them certain persons as well qualified for filling the offices of superintendent and pastor, a recommendation not asked by the congregation at Frankfort, who did not think a superintendent necessary in their situation, and who intended to put themselves under the inspection of two or three pastors invested with equal authority. They accordingly proceeded to make choice of three persons to this office. One of these was Knox, who received information of his election by a letter written in the name of the congregation, and subscribed by its principal members.
The deputation which waited on him with this invitation found him engaged in the prosecution of his studies at Geneva. From aversion to sacrifice the advantages which he enjoyed, or from the apprehension of difficulties that he might meet with at Frankfort, he would gladly have excused himself from accepting the invitation. But the deputies having employed the powerful intercession of Calvin, he was induced to comply, and repairing to Frankfort in the month of November, commenced his ministry with the universal consent and approbation of the Church. Previous to his arrival, however, the harmony which at first subsisted among that people had been disturbed. In reply to the letter addressed to them, the exiles at Zurich had signified that they would not come to Frankfort unless they obtained security that the Church there would “use the same order of service concerning religion, which was, in England, last set forth by King Edward,” for they were fully determined “to admit and use no other.” They alleged that, by varying from that service, they would give occasion to their adversaries to charge their religion with imperfection and mutability, and would condemn their brethren who were sealing it with their blood in England. To these representations the brethren at Frankfort replied that they had obtained the liberty of a place of worship, upon condition of their accommodating themselves as much as possible to the forms used by the French Church; that there were a number of things in the English service-book which would be offensive to the Protestants among whom they resided, and which had been occasion of scruple to conscientious persons at home; that, by the variations which they had introduced, they were very far from meaning to throw any reflection upon the regulations of their late sovereign and his council, who had themselves altered many things, and had resolved on still greater alterations, without thinking that they gave any handle to their popish adversaries; and still less did they mean to detract from the credit of the martyrs, who, they were persuaded, shed their blood in confirmation of more important things than mutable ceremonies of human appointment. This reply had the effect of lowering the tone of the exiles at Zurich, but it did not satisfy them; and instead of desisting from the controversy, and contenting themselves with remaining where they were, they instigated their brethren at Strasburg to urge the same request, and, by letters and messengers, fomented dissension in the congregation at Frankfort.
When Knox arrived, he found that the seeds of animosity had already sprung up among them. From what we already know of his sentiments respecting the English service-book, we may be sure that the eagerness manifested by those who wished to impose it was very displeasing to him. But so sensible was he of the pernicious and discreditable effects of division among brethren exiled for the same faith, that he resolved to act as a moderator between the two parties, and to avoid, as far as possible, everything which might have a tendency to widen or continue the breach. Accordingly, when the congregation had agreed to adopt the order of the Genevan Church, and requested him to proceed to administer the communion according to it, although he approved of that form, he declined carrying it into practice, until their learned brethren in other places were consulted. At the same time, he signified that he had not freedom to dispense the sacraments agreeably to the English liturgy. If he could not be allowed to perform this service in a manner more consonant to Scripture, he requested that some other person might be employed in this part of duty, in which case he would willingly confine himself to preaching; and if neither of these could be granted, he besought them to release him altogether from his charge. To this last request they would by no means consent.
Fearing that, if these differences were not speedily accommodated, they would burst into a flame, Knox, and some other members of the congregation, drew up a summary of the Book of Common Prayer, and, having translated it into Latin, sent it to Calvin for his opinion and advice. In a reply, dated January 20, 1555, Calvin stated that he was grieved to hear of the unseemly contentions which prevailed among them; that, although he had always recommended moderation respecting external ceremonies, yet he could not but condemn the obstinacy of those who would consent to no change of old customs; that, in the liturgy of England, he had found many tolerable fooleries (tolerabiles ineptias), practices which might be tolerated at the beginning of a reformation, but ought to be removed as soon as possible; that, in his opinion, the present condition of the English exiles warranted them to attempt this, and to agree upon an order more conducive to edification; and that, for his part, he could not understand what those persons meant who discovered such fondness for popish dregs.
This letter, when read to the congregation, had a great effect in repressing the keenness of such as had urged the unlimited use of the liturgy, and a committee was appointed to draw up a form which might put an end to all differences. When this committee met, Knox told them that he was convinced it was necessary for one of the parties to relent before they could come to an amicable settlement; and that he would therefore state what he judged most proper to be done, and having exonerated himself, would allow them, without opposition, to determine as they should answer to God and the Church. They accordingly agreed upon a form of worship in which the English liturgy was followed so far as their circumstances and the general ends of edification permitted. This was to continue in force until the end of April next, and if any dispute arose in the interval, it was to be referred to five of the most celebrated foreign divines. The agreement was subscribed by all the members of the congregation; thanks publicly returned to God for the restoration of harmony; and the communion was received as a pledge of union, and of the burial of all past offenses.
But this agreement was soon after violated, and the peace of that unhappy congregation again broken, in the most wanton and inexcusable manner. On the thirteenth of March, 1555, Dr. Cox, who had been preceptor to Edward VI, came from England to Frankfort, with some others in his company. The first day on which they attended public worship after their arrival, they broke through the established order, by answering aloud after the minister in the time of divine service. Being admonished by some of the elders to refrain from that practice, they insolently replied, “that they world do as they had done in England, and they would have the face of an English Church.” “The Lord grant it to have the face of Christ’s Church,” says Knox, in an account which he drew up of these transactions, “and therefore I would have had it agreeable, in outward rites and ceremonies, with Christian Churches reformed.”
On the following Sabbath, one of their number having intruded himself into the pulpit without the consent of the pastors or the congregation, read the litany while Cox and his accomplices echoed the responses. This offensive behavior was aggravated by the consideration that some of them had, before leaving England, been guilty of compliances with Popery, for which they had not yet given satisfaction to their brethren.
Such an infraction of public order, as well as insult upon the whole body, could not be passed over in silence. It was Knox’s turn to preach on the afternoon of the Sabbath when this occurred. In his ordinary course of lecturing through the book of Genesis, he had occasion to discourse of the manner in which offenses committed by professors of religion ought to be treated. Having mentioned that there were infirmities in their conduct over which a veil should be thrown, he proceeded to remark that offenses which openly dishonored God and disturbed the peace of the Church ought to be disclosed and publicly rebuked. He then reminded them of the contention which had existed in the congregation, and of the happy manner in which, after long and painful labor, it had been ended, to the joy of all, by the solemn agreement which had that day been so flagrantly violated. This, he said, it became not the proudest of them to have attempted. Nothing which was destitute of a divine warrant ought to be obtruded upon any Christian Church. In that book for which some entertained such an overweening fondness, he would undertake to prove publicly, that there were things imperfect, impure, and superstitious; and if any should go about to burden a free congregation with such things, he would not fail, as often as he occupied that place, provided his text afforded occasion, to oppose their design. As he had been forced to enter upon that subject, he would say farther, that, in his judgment, slackness in reforming religion, when time and opportunity were granted for this purpose, was one cause of the divine displeasure against England. He adverted also to the trouble which Bishop Hooper had suffered for refusing to comply with some of the ceremonies, to the want of discipline, and to the well-known fact, that three, four, or five benefices had been held by one man, to the depriving of the flock of Christ of their necessary food.
This free reprimand was highly resented by those against whom it was leveled, especially by such as had held pluralities in England, who insisted that the preacher should be called to account for slandering their mother church. A special meeting being held for the consideration of this affair, the friends of the liturgy, instead of prosecuting their complaints against Knox, began with requiring that Cox and his friends should be admitted to a vote in the discussion. This was resisted by the great majority, on the ground that these persons had not yet subscribed the discipline of the Church, nor given satisfaction for their late disorderly conduct, and their sinful compliances in England. The behavior of our Reformer, on this occasion, was more remarkable for magnanimity than prudence. Although aware of the hostility of Cox’s adherents to himself, and that they sought admission chiefly to overpower him by numbers, he was so confident of the justice of his cause, and so anxious to remove prejudices, that he entreated and prevailed with the meeting to yield to their unreasonable request, and to admit them immediately to a vote. “I know,” said he, “that your earnest desire to be received at this instant within the number of the congregation, is, that, by the multitude of your voices, ye may overthrow my cause. Howbeit, the matter is so evident, that ye shall not be able to do it. I fear not your judgment, and therefore do require that ye may be admitted.” This disinterestedness was thrown away on the opposite party, for no sooner were they admitted, and had obtained a majority of voices, than Cox, usurping an authority with which he had never been invested, discharged Knox from preaching, and from all interference in the congregational affairs.
The great body of the congregation were indignant at these proceedings, and there was reason to fear that the mutual animosity would break out into a disgraceful tumult. To prevent this, some of the members made a representation of the case to the senate of Frankfort, who, after recommending in vain a private accommodation, issued an order that the congregation should conform exactly to the mode of service used by the French Church, as nothing but confusion had ensued since they departed from it; and threatened, if this was not complied with, to shut up their place of worship. To this peremptory injunction the Coxian faction pretended a cheerful submission, while they clandestinely concerted measures for obtaining its revocation, and enforcing their favorite liturgy upon a reclaiming congregation.
Perceiving the influence which our countryman had in the Church, and despairing to carry their plan into execution so long as he was among them, they determined, in the first place, to rid themselves of his presence. To accomplish this object, they had recourse to one of the basest and most unchristian acts ever employed to ruin an adversary. Two of them, in concurrence with others, went privately to the magistrates, and accused Knox of high treason against the Emperor of Germany, his son Philip, and Queen Mary of England; putting into their hands at the same time a copy of a book which he had lately published, and in which the passages containing the grounds of charge were marked. “O Lord God!” says Knox, when relating this step, “open their hearts to see their wickedness, and forgive them for thy manifold mercies. And I forgive them, O Lord, from the bottom of mine heart. But that thy message sent by my mouth may not be slandered, I am compelled to declare the cause of my departing, and to utter their follies, to their amendment, I trust, and the example of others, who, in the same banishment, can have so cruel hearts as to persecute their brethren.” The book which the informers left with the magistrates was his Admonition to England; and the passage upon which they principally fixed, as substantiating the charge of treason against the emperor, was the following, originally spoken to the inhabitants of Amersham in Buckinghamshire, on occasion of the rumor of marriage of Queen Mary with Philip, the son and heir of Charles V, a match which was at that time dreaded by many of the English Catholics. “O England, England! if thou obstinately wilt return into Egypt, that is, if thou contract marriage, confederacy, or league with such princes as do maintain and advance idolatry, such as the emperor, who is no less enemy to Christ than ever was Nero, if for the pleasure of such princes thou return to thy old abominations before used under Papistry, then assuredly, O England, thou shalt be plagued and brought to desolation by the means of those whose favor thou seekest!” The other passages related to the cruelties of the English queen. Not to speak of the extravagance of the charge which they founded upon these passages, and of the unbrotherly spirit which they discovered, it was with little grace and consistency that the sticklers for the English forms availed themselves of the strong language which Knox had employed in the warmth of his zeal, in order to excite prejudices against him; and it would be no difficult task to extract from their writings declamations against their own queen, and against foreign princes, more intemperate than anything that ever proceeded from his pen.
In consequence of this accusation, the magistrates sent for Whittingham, a respectable member of the English congregation, and interrogated him concerning Knox’s character. He told them that he was “a learned, grave, and godly man.” They then acquainted him with the serious accusation which had been lodged against him by some of his countrymen, and giving him the book, charged him, sub pœna pacis, to bring them an exact Latin translation of the passages which were marked. This being done, they commanded Knox to desist from preaching until their pleasure should be known. To this command he peaceably submitted, “yet,” says he in his narrative, “being desirous to hear others, I went to the church next day, not thinking that my company would have offended any. But as soon as my accusers saw me, they, with…and others, departed from the sermon, some of them protesting with great vehemence that they would not tarry where I was.” The magistrates were extremely perplexed how to act in this delicate business. On the one hand, they were satisfied of the malice of Knox’s accusers; on the other, they were afraid that information of the charge would be conveyed to the emperor’s council, which then sat at Augsburg, and that they might be obliged to deliver up the accused to them, or to the Queen of England. In this dilemma, they desired Whittingham to advise his friend privately to retire of his own accord from Frankfort. At the same time, they did not dissemble their detestation of the unnatural conduct of the informers, who, having waited upon them to know the result of their deliberations, were dismissed from their presence with evident marks of displeasure.
On the 25th of March, Knox delivered a most consolatory discourse to about fifty members of the congregation, who assembled at his lodgings in the evening. Next day they accompanied him some miles on his journey from Frankfort, and, with heavy hearts and many tears, committed him to God, and took their leave.
No sooner was Knox gone than Cox, who had privately concerted the plan with Glauberg, a civilian, and nephew of the chief magistrate, procured an order from the senate for the unlimited use of the English liturgy, by means of the false representation that it was now universally acceptable to the congregation. The next step was the abrogation of the code of discipline, and then the appointment of a bishop, or superintendent, over the pastors. Having accomplished these important improvements, they could now boast that they had, “the face of an English church.” Yes, they could now raise their heads above all the reformed churches which had the honor of entertaining them, and which, though they might have all the office-bearers and ordinances instituted by Christ, had neither bishop, nor litany, nor surplice! They could now lift up their faces in the presence of the Church of Rome herself, and cherish the hope that she would not altogether disown them! But let me not forget that the men of whom I write were at this time suffering exile for the Protestant religion, and that they really detested the body of Popery, though childishly and superstitiously attached to its attire, and gestures, and language.
The sequel of the transactions in the English congregation at Frankfort does not properly belong to this memoir. I shall only add that after some ineffectual attempts to obtain satisfaction for the breach of the Church’s peace, and the injurious treatment of their minister, a considerable number of the members left the city. Some of them, among whom was Fox, the celebrated martyrologist, repaired to Basle. The greater part went to Geneva, where they obtained a place of worship, and lived in great harmony and love until the storm of persecution in England blew over at the death of Queen Mary; while those who remained at Frankfort, as if to expiate their offense against Knox, continued a prey to endless contention. Cox and his learned colleagues, having accomplished their favorite object, soon left them to compose the strife which they had excited, and provided themselves elsewhere with a less expensive situation for carrying on their studies.
I have been the more minute in the detail of these transactions, not only on account of the share which the subject of this memoir had in them, but because they throw light upon the controversy between the conformists and non-conformists, which runs through the succeeding period of the ecclesiastical history of England. “The troubles at Frankfort” present, in miniature, a striking picture of that contentious scene which was afterwards exhibited on a larger scale in the mother country. The issue of that affair augured ill as to the prospect of an amicable adjustment of the litigated points. It had been usual to urge conformity to the obnoxious ceremonies, from the respect due to the authority by which they were enjoined. But in this instance the civil authority, so far from enjoining, had rather discountenanced them. If they were urged with such intolerant importunity in a place where the laws and customs were repugnant to them, what was to be expected in England, where law and custom were on their side? The divines who received ecclesiastical preferment at the accession of Elizabeth, professed that they desired the removal of these grounds of strife, but could not obtain it from the queen, and I am disposed to give many of them credit for the sincerity of their profession. But as they showed themselves so stiff and unyielding when the matter was wholly in their own power—as some of them were so eager in wreathing a yoke about the consciences of the brethren as to urge reluctant magistrates to rivet it—is it any wonder that their applications for relief were cold and ineffectual, when made to rulers who were disposed to make the yoke still more severe, and “to chastise with scorpions those whom they had chastised with whips?” I repeat it: when I consider the transactions at Frankfort, I am not surprised at the defeat of every subsequent attempt to advance the Reformation in England, or to procure relief to those who scrupled to yield conformity to some of the ecclesiastical laws. I know it is pleaded that the things complained of are matters of indifference, not prohibited in Scripture, not imposed as essential to religion or necessary to salvation, matters that can affect no well-informed conscience; and that such as refuse them, when enacted by authority, are influenced by unreasonable scrupulosity, conceited, pragmatical, opinionative. This has been the usual language of a ruling party, when imposing upon the consciences of the minority. But, not to urge here the danger of allowing to any class of rulers, civil or ecclesiastical, a power of enjoining indifferent things in religion; nor the undeniable fact that the burdensome system of ceremonial observances, by which religion was corrupted under the Papacy, was gradually introduced under these and similar pretexts; nor that the things in question, when complexly and formally considered, are not really matters of indifference; not to insist at present upon these topics, the answer to the above plea is short and decisive. These things appear matters of conscience and importance to the scruplers; you say they are matters of indifference. Why, then, violate the sacred peace of the Church, and perpetuate division; why silence, deprive, harass, and starve men of acknowledged learning and piety, and drive from communion a sober and devout people; why torture their consciences, and endanger their souls, by the imposition of things, which, in your judgment, are indifferent, not necessary, and unworthy to become objects of contention?
Upon retiring from Frankfort, Knox went directly to Geneva. He was cordially welcomed back by Calvin. As his advice had great weight in disposing Knox to comply with the invitation from Frankfort, he felt much hurt at the treatment which had obliged him to leave it. In reply to an apologetic epistle which he received from Dr. Cox, Calvin, although he prudently restrained himself from saying anything which might revive or increase the flame, could not conceal his opinion that Knox had been used in an unbrotherly and unchristian manner, and that it would have been better for his accuser to have remained at home, than to have come into a foreign country as a firebrand to inflame a peaceable society.
It appeared from the event that Providence had disengaged Knox from his late charge, to employ him on a more important service. From the time that he was carried prisoner into France, he had never lost sight of Scotland, nor relinquished the hope of again preaching in his native country. While he resided at Berwick and Newcastle, he had frequent opportunities of personal intercourse with his countrymen, and of learning the state of religion among them. His unintermitted labors, during the five years which he spent in England, by occupying his time and attention, lessened the regret which he felt at seeing the object of his wishes apparently at as great a distance as ever. Upon leaving that kingdom, his thoughts were anxiously turned to Scotland. He found means to carry on an epistolary correspondence with some of his friends at home; one great object of his journeys to Dieppe was to receive their letters; and he had the satisfaction, soon after his retreat from Frankfort, to obtain such information from them as encouraged him to execute his design of paying a visit to his native country. To prepare the reader for the account of this journey, it will be necessary to take a view of the principal events which had occurred in that kingdom from the time that Knox was forced to leave it.
The surrender of the castle of St. Andrews seemed to have given an irrecoverable blow to the reformed interest in Scotland. Among the prisoners conveyed to France were some of the most zealous and able Protestants in the kingdom, and the rest, seeing themselves at the mercy of their adversaries, were dispirited and intimidated. The clergy triumphed in the victory which they had obtained, and flattered themselves that they would now be able with ease to stifle all opposition to their measures. The regent, being guided entirely by his brother, the Archbishop of St. Andrews, was ready to employ all the dower of the State in support of the Church, and for suppressing those who refused to submit to her decisions. During the confusions produced by the invasion of the kingdom under the Duke of Somerset, and by the disastrous defeat of the Scots at Pinkie, in the year 1547, the regent found it his interest not to irritate the Protestants; but no sooner was he freed from the alarm created by these events than he began to treat them with severity. Aware that it would be extremely invidious to prosecute the barons and gentry upon a charge of heresy, and perhaps convinced that such measures in the time of his predecessor had proved injurious to the hierarchy, the crafty primate commenced his attack by bringing them to trial for crimes against the state. Although they had conducted themselves in the most peaceable and loyal manner during the late invasion, and many of them had died under the standard of the regent, they were accused of being secretly favorable to the English, and of holding correspondence with them. Cockburn of Ormiston and Crichton of Brunston were banished and their estates forfeited. Sir John Melville of Raith, a gentleman of distinguished probity and of untainted loyalty, was accused of a traitorous connection with the enemy, and although the only evidence adduced in support of the charge was a letter written by him to one of his sons then in England, and although this letter contained nothing criminal, yet was he unjustly condemned and beheaded. The signing of a treaty of peace with England in 1550 was a signal for the clergy to proceed to acts of more undisguised persecution. Adam Wallace, who had lived for some time as tutor in the family of Ormiston, was apprehended, and being tried for heresy before a convention of clergy and nobility, was committed to the flames on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh. These prosecutions were not confined to persons in holy orders. George Winchester of Kinglassie was summoned before the archbishop and clergy at St. Andrews, and, having made his escape, was condemned as a heretic, and his goods escheated. In the following year, the parliament renewed the laws in support of the Church, and added a new statute against the circulation of heretical ballads and tragedies.
By these severe measures the clergy struck terror into the minds of the nation; but they were unable to conceal the glaring corruptions by which their own order was disgraced, and they could not remain strangers to the murmurs that these had excited throughout the whole kingdom. In the month of November 1549, a provincial council was held at Edinburgh “for the reformation of the Church, and the extirpation of heresy.’’ This council acknowledged that “corruption and profane lewdness of life, as well as gross ignorance of arts and sciences, reigned among the clergy of almost every degree,” and they enacted no fewer than fifty-eight canons for correcting these evils. They agreed to carry into execution the decree of the general council of Basle, which ordained that every clergyman who lived in concubinage should be deprived of the revenues of his benefice for three months, and that if, after due admonition, he did not dismiss his concubine, or if he took to himself another, he should be deprived of his benefices altogether. They exhorted the prelates and inferior clergy not to retain in their own houses their bastard children, nor suffer them to be promoted directly or indirectly to their own benefices, nor employ the patrimony of the Church for the purpose of marrying them to barons, or of erecting baronages for them. That the distinction between clergy and laity might be visibly preserved, they appointed the ordinaries to charge the priests under their care to desist from the practice of preserving their beards, which had begun to prevail, and to see that the canonical tonsure was duly observed. To remedy the neglect of public instruction, which was loudly complained of, they agreed to observe the act of the Council of Trent, which ordained that every bishop, “according to the grace given to him,” should preach personally four times a year at least, unless lawfully hindered; and that such of them as were unfit for this duty, through want of practice, should endeavor to qualify themselves, and for that end should entertain in their houses learned divines capable of instructing them. The same injunctions were laid on rectors.
They determined that a benefice should be set apart in each bishopric and monastery, for supporting a preacher who might supply the want of teaching within their bounds; that, where no such benefice was set apart, pensions should be allotted; and that, where neither of these was provided, the preacher should be entitled to demand from the rector forty shillings a year, provided he had preached four times in his parish within that period. The council made a number of other regulations, concerning the dress and diet of the clergy, the course of study in cathedral churches and monasteries, union of benefices, pluralities, ordinations, dispensations, and the method of process in consistorial courts. But, not trusting altogether to these remedies for the cure of heresy, they farther ordained that the bishop of each diocese, and the head of each monastery, should appoint “inquisitors of heretical pravity, men of piety, probity, learning, good fame, and great circumspection,” who should make the most diligent search after heresies, foreign opinions, condemned books, and particularly profane songs, intended to defame the clergy, or to detract from the authority of the ecclesiastical constitutions.
Another provincial council, held in 1551 and 1552, besides ratifying the preceding canons, adopted an additional expedient for correcting the continued neglect of public instruction. After declaring that “the inferior clergy, and the prelates for the most part, were still unqualified for instructing the people in the catholic faith, and other things necessary to salvation, and for reclaiming the erroneous,” they proceeded to approve of a catechism which had been compiled in the Scottish language, ordered that it should be printed, and that copies of it should be sent to all rectors, vicars, and curates, who were enjoined to read a portion of it, instead of a sermon, to their parishioners, on every Sunday and holiday, when no person qualified for preaching was present. The rectors, vicars, and curates were enjoined to practice daily in reading their catechism, lest, on ascending the pulpit, they should stammer and blunder, and thereby expose themselves to the laughter of the people. The archbishop was directed, after supplying the clergy with copies, to keep the remainder beside him “in firm custody,” and the inferior clergy were prohibited from indiscreetly communicating their copies to the people, without the permission of their bishops, who might allow this privilege to “certain honest, grave, trusty, and discreet laics, who appeared to desire it for the sake of instruction, and not of gratifying curiosity.” If any of the hearers testified a disposition to call into question any part of the catechism, the clerical reader was prohibited, under the pain of deprivation, from entering into dispute with them on the subject, and was instructed to delate them to the inquisitors.
Many of the regulations enacted by these two councils were excellent, but the execution of them was committed to the very persons who were interested in support of the evils against which they were directed. Accordingly, the canons of the Scottish clergy, like those of general councils called for the reformation of the Church, instead of correcting, served only to proclaim the abuses which prevailed. We know from the declarations of subsequent provincial councils, as well as from the complaints of the people, that the licentiousness of the clergy continued, and the catechism which they had sanctioned seems to have been but little used. I have not found it mentioned by any writer of that age, Popish or Protestant, and we know of its existence only from the canon of the Assembly which authorized its use and from a few copies of it which have descended to our time.
The council which met in 1551 boasts that, through the singular favor of the government, and the vigilance of the prelates, heresy, which had formerly spread through the kingdom, was now repressed and almost extinguished. There were still, however, many Protestants in the nation; but they were deprived of teachers, and they satisfied themselves with retaining their sentiments, without exposing their lives to inevitable destruction by avowing their creed or exciting the suspicions of the clergy by holding private conventicles. In this state they remained from 1551 to 1554.
While the Reformation was in this languishing condition, it experienced a sudden revival in Scotland, from two causes which appeared at first view to threaten its utter extinction in Britain. These were the elevation of the queen dowager to the regency of Scotland, and the accession of Mary to the throne of England.
The queen dowager of Scotland, who possessed a great portion of that ambition by which her brothers, the princes of Lorrain, were fired, had long formed the design of wresting the regency from the hands of Arran. After a series of political intrigue, in which she discovered the most consummate and persevering address, she at last succeeded; and, on the tenth of April 1554, the regent resigned his office to her in the presence of parliament, and retired into private life, with the title of Duke of Chastelherault. The dowager had, at an early period, made her court to the Protestants, whom Arran had alienated from him by persecution; and, to induce them to favor her pretensions, she promised to screen them from the violence of the clergy. Having received their cordial support, and finding it necessary still to use them as a check upon the clergy, who, under the influence of the primate, favored the interest of her rival, the queen regent secretly countenanced them, and the Protestants were emboldened again to avow their sentiments.
In the meantime the queen of England was exerting all her power to crush the Reformation; and, had the court of Scotland acted in concert with her for this purpose, the Protestants must, according to all human probability, have been exterminated in Britain. But the English queen having married Philip, King of Spain, while the queen regent was indissolubly attached to France, the rival of Spain, a coldness was produced between these two princesses, which was soon after succeeded by an open breach. Among the Protestants who fled from the cruelty of Mary, some took refuge in Scotland, where they were suffered to remain undisturbed, and even to teach in prorate, through the connivance of the new regent, and in consequence of the security into which the clergy had been lulled by success. Traveling from place to place, they propagated instruction, and by their example and their exhortations fanned the latent zeal of those who had formerly received the knowledge of the truth.
William Harlow, whose zeal and acquaintance with the Scriptures compensated for the defects of his education, was the first preacher who, at this time, came to Scotland. Let those who do not know, or who wish to forget, that the religion which they profess was first preached by fishermen and tentmakers, labor to conceal the occupations of some of those men whom Providence raised up to spread the reformed gospel through their native country. Harlow had followed the trade of a tailor in Edinburgh; but having imbibed the Protestant doctrine, he retired to England, where he was admitted to deacon’s orders, and employed as a preacher during the reign of Edward VI. Upon his return to Scotland, he remained for some time in Ayrshire, and continued to preach in different parts of the country with great fervor and diligence, until the establishment of the Reformation, when he was admitted minister of St. Cuthberts, in the vicinity of Edinburgh.
Some time after him arrived John Willock. This reformer afterwards became the principal coadjutor of Knox, who never mentions him without expressions of affection and esteem. The cordiality which subsisted between them, the harmony of their sentiments, and the combination of the peculiar talents and qualities by which they were distinguished, conduced in no small degree to the advancement of the Reformation. Willock was not inferior to Knox in learning, and though he did not equal him in eloquence and intrepidity, surpassed him in affability, inmoderation, and in address; qualities which enabled him sometimes to maintain his station, and to accomplish his purposes, when his colleague could not act with safety or with success. He was a native of Ayrshire, and had belonged to the order of Franciscan friars; but, having embraced the reformed opinions at an early period, he threw off the monastic habit, and fled to England. During the persecution for the Six Articles in 1541, he was thrown into the prison of the Fleet. He afterwards became chaplain to the Duke of Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey, and upon the accession of Queen Mary, left England, and took up his residence at Embden. Having practiced there as a physician, he was introduced to Anne, Duchess of Friesland, who patronized the Reformation, and whose opinion of his talents and integrity induced her to send him to Scotland in the summer of 1555 with a commission to the queen regent, to make some arrangements respecting the trade carried on between the two countries. The public character with which he was invested gave Willock an opportunity of cultivating acquaintance with the leading Protestants, and while he resided in Edinburgh, they met with him in private, and listened to his religious instructions.
Knox received the news of this favorable change in the situation of his brethren with heartfelt satisfaction. He did not know what it was to fear danger, and was little accustomed to consult his own ease, when he had the prospect of being useful in advancing the interests of truth; but he acknowledges that, on the present occasion, he was at first averse to a journey into Scotland, notwithstanding some encouraging circumstances in the intelligence which he had received from that quarter. He had been so much tossed about of late, that he felt a peculiar relish in the learned leisure which he at present enjoyed, and which he was desirous to prolong. His anxiety to see his wife, after an absence of nearly two years, and the importunity with which his mother-in-law, in her letters, urged him to visit them, determined him at last to undertake the journey. Setting out from Geneva in the month of August 1555, he came to Dieppe, and sailing from that port, landed on the east coast, near the boundaries between Scotland and England, about the end of harvest. He repaired immediately to Berwick, where he had the satisfaction of finding his wife and her mother in comfortable circumstances, and enjoying the happiness of religious society with several individuals in that city, who, like themselves, had not “bowed the knee” to the established idolatry, nor consented to “receive the mark” of antichrist.
Having remained some time with them, he set out secretly to visit the Protestants in Edinburgh, intending, after a short stay, to return to Berwick. But he found employment which detained him beyond his expectation. He lodged with James Syme, a respectable burgess of Edinburgh, in whose house the friends of the Reformation assembled, to attend the instructions of Knox as soon as they were informed of his arrival. Few of the inhabitants of the metropolis had as yet embraced the reformed doctrines, but several persons had repaired to it at this time, from other parts of the country, to meet with Willock. Among these were John Erskine of Dun, whom we had formerly occasion to mention as an early favorer of the new opinions, and a distinguished patron of literature, and whose great respectability of character and approved loyalty and patriotism had preserved him from the resentment of the clergy and the jealousy of the government during successive periods of persecution; and William Maitland of Lethington, a young gentleman of the finest parts, improved by a superior education, but inclined to subtlety in reasoning, accommodating in his religious sentiments, and extremely versatile in his political conduct. Highly gratified with Knox’s discourses, which were greatly superior to any which they had heard from popish or Protestant preachers, they brought their acquaintances along with them to hear him, and his audiences daily increased. Being confined to a private house, he was obliged to preach to successive assemblies, and was unremittingly employed, by night as well as by day, in communicating instruction to persons who demanded it with extraordinary avidity. The following letter, written by him to Mrs. Bowes, to excuse himself for not returning so soon as he had purposed, will convey the best idea of his employment and feelings on this interesting occasion.
“The wayis of man are not in his awn power. Albeit my journey toward Scotland, belovit mother, was maist contrarious to my awn judgment, befoir I did interpryse the same; yet this day I prais God for thame wha was the cause externall of my resort to theis quarteris; that is, I prais God in yow and for yow, whom hie maid the instrument to draw me from the den of my awn eas (you allane did draw me from the rest of quyet studie), to contemplat and behald the fervent thirst of our brethrene, night and day sobbing and gronying for the breide of life. Gif I had not sene it with my eis, in my awn country, I culd not have beleveit it! I praisit God, when I was with you, perceaving that, in the middis of Sodome, God had mo Lottis than one, and mo faithful douchteris than tua. But the fervencie heir doith fer exceid all utheris that I have seen. And thairfor ye sall patiently bear, altho’ I spend heir yet sum dayis; for depart I cannot, unto sic tyme as God quenche thair thirst a littil. Yea, mother, their fervencie doith sa ravische me, that I cannot but accus and condemp my sleuthful coldnes. God grant thame thair hartis desire, and I pray yow adverteis [me] of your estait, and of thingis that have occurit sense your last wrytting. Comfort yourself in Godis promissis, and be assureit that God steiris up mo friendis than we be war of. My commendation to all in your company. I commit you to the protectioun of the Omnipotent. In great haist, the 4. of November, 1555. From Scotland. Your sore, Johne Knox.”
Having executed the commission, Willock returned to Embden, and he quitted Scotland with the less regret, as he left behind him one who was so capable of promoting the cause which he had at heart. When he first arrived in Scotland, Knox found that the friends of the reformed doctrine continued, in general, to attend the popish worship, and even the celebration of mass, principally with the view of avoiding the scandal which they would otherwise incur. Highly disapproving of this practice, he labored, in his conversation and sermons, to convince them of the great impiety of that part of the popish service, and the criminality of countenancing it by their presence. Doubts being still entertained on the subject by some, a meeting of the Protestants in the city was held for the express purpose of discussing the question. Maitland defended the practice with all the ingenuity and learning for which he was distinguished, but his arguments were so satisfactorily answered by Knox, that he yielded the point as indefensible, and agreed, with the rest of his brethren, to abstain, for the future, from such temporizing conduct. Thus was a formal separation made from the Popish Church in Scotland, which may be justly regarded as an important step in the Reformation.
Erskine of Dun prevailed on Knox to accompany him to his family seat in the shire of Angus, where he continued a month, during which he preached every day. The principal persons in that neighborhood attended his sermons. After his return to the south of the Forth, he resided at Calder-house, in West Lothian, the seat of Sir James Sandilands, commonly called Lord St. John, because he was chief in Scotland of the religious order of military knights, who went by the name of Hospitallers, or Knights of St. John. This gentleman, who was now venerable for his gray hairs as well as for his valor, sagacity, and correct morals, had long been a sincere friend to the reformed cause, and had contributed to its preservation in that part of the country. In 1548, he had presented to the parsonage of Calder, John Spottiswood, afterwards the reformed superintendent of Lothian, who had imbibed the Protestant doctrines from Archbishop Cranmer in England, and who instilled them into the minds of his parishioners, and of the nobility and gentry that frequented the house of his patron. Among those who attended Knox’s sermons at Calder were three young noblemen, who made a great figure in the public transactions which followed—Archibald Lord Lorn, who, succeeding to the earldom of Argyle at the most critical period of the Reformation, promoted, with all the ardor of youthful zeal, that cause which his father had espoused in extreme old age; John Lord Erskine, afterwards Earl of Mar, who commanded the important fortress of Edinburgh Castle during the civil war which ensued between the queen regent and the Protestants, and died Regent of Scotland; and Lord James Stewart, an illegitimate son of James V who was subsequently created Earl of Murray, and was the first regent of the kingdom during the minority of James VI. Being designed for the Church, the last named nobleman had been in his youth made prior of St. Andrews—a title by which he is often mentioned in history—but, on arriving at manhood, he discovered no inclination to follow the clerical profession. He was at this time in the twenty-second year of his age; and although he had lived for the most part in retirement from the court, had already given proofs of those superior talents which he had soon a more favorable opportunity of displaying. Knox had formerly met with him in London, and his sagacity led him, even at that time, to form the highest expectations from the talents and spirit of the youthful prior. The three noblemen were much gratified with Knox’s doctrine, and his exhortations made an impression upon their minds, which remained during the succeeding part of their lives.
On the back of a picture of our Reformer, which hangs in one of the rooms of Lord Torphichen’s house at Calder, is this inscription: “The Rev. John Knox. The first sacrament of the supper given in Scotland after the Reformation was dispensed in this hall.”
In the beginning of the year 1556, he was conducted by Lockhart of Bar, and Campbell of Kineancleugh, to Kyle, the ancient receptacle of the Scottish Lollards, where there were a number of adherents to the reformed doctrine. He preached in the houses of Bar, Kineancleugh, Carnell, Ochiltree, and Gadgirth, and in the town of Ayr. In several of these places he also dispensed the sacrament of our Lord’s Supper. A little before Easter, he went to Finlayston, the baronial mansion of the noble family of Glencairn. William Earl of Glencairn, having been killed at the battle of Pinkie, had been succeeded by his son Alexander, whose superior learning and ability did not escape the discerning eye of Sir Ralph Sadler during his embassy in Scotland. He was an ardent and steady friend to the reformed religion, and had carefully instructed his family in its principles. In his house, besides preaching, Knox dispensed the sacrament of the supper, the earl himself, his countess, and two of their sons, with a number of their friends and acquaintance, participating of that sacred feast.
From Finlayston he returned to Calder-house, and soon after paid a second visit to Dun, during which he preached more openly than before. At this time the greater part of the gentlemen of Mearns made profession of the reformed religion by sitting down at the Lord’s table, and entered into a solemn and mutual bond, in which they renounced the Popish communion and engaged to maintain and promote the pure preaching of the gospel, as Providence should favor them with opportunities.
This seems to have been the first of those religious bonds or covenants by which the confederation of the Protestants in Scotland was so frequently ratified. Although they have been condemned as unwarranted in a religious point of view, and dangerous in a political, yet are they completely defensible upon the principles both of conscience and policy. A mutual agreement, compact, or covenant is virtually implied in the constitution of every society, civil or religious, and the dictates of natural law conspire with the declarations of revelation in sanctioning the warrantableness and propriety of explicit engagements about any lawful and important matter, and of ratifying these, if circumstances shall require it, by formal subscription and by a solemn appeal to the Searcher of hearts. By strengthening the motives to fidelity and constancy, and thus producing mutual confidence among those who are embarked in the same cause, they have proved eminently beneficial in the reformation of churches and nations and in securing the religious and political privileges of men. The misapplication of them, when employed in a bad cause and for mischievous ends, can be no argument against their use in a legitimate way, and for laudable purposes. And the reasoning employed to prove that such covenants should not be entered into without the permission of rulers, would lead to the conclusion that subjects ought never to profess a religion to which their superiors are hostile, nor make any attempts to obtain the reform of abuses or the redress of grievances, without the consent and approbation of those who are interested in their support.
The dangers to which Knox and his friends had been accustomed taught them to conduct matters with such secrecy that he had preached for a considerable time, and in different quarters of the country, before the clergy knew that he was in the kingdom. Concealment was, however, impracticable after his audiences became numerous. His preaching at Ayr was reported to the court, and formed the topic of conversation in the presence of the queen regent. Someone in the company having affirmed that the preacher was an Englishman, “a prelate, not of the least pride, said, ‘Nay; no Englishman, but it is Knox, that knave.’” This was Beatoun, Archbishop of Glasgow. “It was my lord’s pleasure,” says Knox, “so to baptize a poor man, the reason whereof, if it should be required, his rochet and mitre must stand for authority. What further liberty he used in defining things alike uncertain to him, to wit, of my learning and doctrine, at this present I omit. For what hath my life and conversation been, since it hath pleased God to call me from the puddle of papistry, let my very enemies speak; and what learning I have, they may prove when they please.” Interest was at this time made by the bishops for his apprehension, but without success.
After his last journey to Angus, the friars flocked from all quarters to the bishops, and instigated them to adopt speedy and decisive measures for checking the alarming effects of his preaching. In consequence of this, he was summoned to appear before a convention of the clergy, in the Church of the Blackfriars at Edinburgh, on the fifteenth of May. This diet he resolved to keep, and with that view came to Edinburgh before the day appointed, accompanied by Erskine of Dun and several other gentlemen. The clergy had never dreamed of his attendance. Being apprised of his determination, and afraid to bring matters to extremity, while unassured of the regent’s decided support, they met beforehand, set aside the summons under pretence of some informality, and deserted the diet against him. On the day on which he should have appeared as a culprit, Knox preached in the Bishop of Dunkeld’s large lodging, to a far greater audience than had before attended him in Edinburgh. During the ten following days, he preached in the same place, forenoon and afternoon, none of the clergy making the smallest attempt to disturb him. It was in the midst of these labors that he wrote the following hasty lines to Mrs. Bowes.
“Belovit mother, with my maist hartlie commendation in the Lord Jesus, albeit I was fullie purposit to have visitit yow before this tyme, yet hath God laid impedimentis, whilk I cold not avoyd. They are suche as I dout not ar to his glorie, and to the comfort of many heir. The trumpet blew the ald sound thrie dayis together, till privat houssis of indifferent largenes culd not conteane the voce of it. God, for Christ his Sonis sake, grant me to be myndful, that the sobbis of my hart hath not been in vane, nor neglectit in the presence of his Majestie. O! sweet war the death that suld follow sic fourtie dayis in Edinburgh, as heir I have had thrie. Rejose, mother; the tyme of our deliverance approacheth: for, as Sathan rageth, sa dois the grace of the Halie Spreit abound, and daylie geveth new testymonyis of the everlasting love of oure merciful Father. I can wryt na mair to you at this present. The grace of the Lord Jesus rest with you. In haste—this Monunday—youre sone, John Knox.”
About this time, the Earl Marischal was induced to attend an evening exhortation delivered by Knox. He was so much pleased with the discourse, that he joined with Glencairn in urging the preacher to write a letter to the queen regent, which, they thought, might have the effect of inclining her to protect the reformed preachers, if not also to lend a favorable ear to their doctrine. With this request he was induced to comply.
As a specimen of the manner in which this letter was written, I shall give the following quotation, in the original language: “I dout not, that the rumouris, whilk haif cumin to your grace’s earis of me, haif bene such, that (yf all reportis wer trew) I wer unworthie to live in the earth. And wonder it is, that the votes of the multitude suld not so have inflamed your grace’s hart with just hatred of such a one as I am accuseit to be, that all acces to pitie suld have been schute up. I am traducit as ane heretick, accusit as a false teacher and seducer of the pepill, besides other opprobries, whilk (affirmit by men of warldlie honour and estimation) may easelie kendill the wrath of majestratis, whair innocencie is not knawin. But blissit be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Chryst, who, by the dew of his heavenly grace, hath so quenchit the fyre of displeasure as yit in your grace’s hart (whilk of lait dayis I have understood), that Sathan is frustrat of his interpryse and purpois. Whilk is to my heart no small comfort; not so muche (God is witness) for any benefit that I can resave in this miserable lyfe, by protectioun of any earthlie creature (for the cupe whilk it behoveth me to drink is apoyntit by the wisdome of him whois consallis ar not changeable), as that I am for that benefit whilk I am assurit your grace sall resave, yf that ye continew in like moderation and clemencie towards utheris that maist unjustlie ar and sall be accusit, as that your grace hath begun towardis me and my most desperate cause.” An orator (he continued) might justly require of her grace a motherly pity towards her subjects, the execution of justice upon murderers and oppressors, a heart free from avarice and partiality, a mind studious of the public welfare, with other virtues which heathen as well as inspired writers required of rulers. But, in his opinion, it was vain to crave reformation of manners when religion was so much corrupted. He could not propose, in the present letter, to lay open the sources, progress, and extent of those errors and corruptions which had overspread and inundated the Church, but, if her majesty would grant him opportunity and liberty of speech, he vas ready to undertake this task. In the meantime, he could not refrain from calling her attention to this important subject, and pointing out to her the fallacy of some general prejudices, by which she was in danger of being deluded. She ought to beware of thinking that the care of religion did not belong to magistrates, but was devolved wholly on the clergy; that it was a thing incredible that religion should be so universally depraved; or that true religion was to be judged of by the majority of voices, by custom, by the laws and determinations of men, or by anything but the infallible dictates of inspired Scripture. He knew that innovations in religion were deemed hazardous, but the urgent necessity and immense magnitude of the object ought, in the present case, to swallow up the fear danger. He was aware that a public reformation might be thought to exceed her authority as a regent; but she could not be bound to maintain idolatry and manifest abuses, nor to suffer the clergy to murder innocent men, merely because they worshipped God according to his word.
Though Knox’s pen was not the most smooth nor delicate, and though he often irritated by the plainness and severity of his language, the letter to the queen regent is very far from being uncourtly or inelegant. It seems to have been written with great care, and in point of style may be compared with any composition of that period, for simplicity and forcible expression. Its strain was well calculated for stimulating the inquiries, and confirming the resolutions, of one who was impressed with a conviction of the reigning evils of the Church, or who, though not resolved in judgment as to the matters in controversy, was determined to preserve moderation between the contending parties. Notwithstanding her imposing manners, the regent was not a person of this description. The Earl of Glencairn delivered the letter into her hand; she glanced over it with a careless air, and gave it to the Archbishop of Glasgow, saying, “Please you, my lord, to read a pasquil.” The report of this induced Knox, after he retired from Scotland, to publish the letter, with additions. The style of the additions is more spirited and sharp than that of the original letter, but there is nothing even in them which is indecorous, or which will warrant the charge which has been brought against him of being accustomed to treat crowned heads with irreverence and disrespect. “As charitie,” says he, “persuadeth me to interpret thinges doubtfully spoken in the best sence, so my dutie to God (who hath commanded me to flatter no prince in the earth) compelleth me to say, that if no more ye esteme the admonition of God nor the cardinalies do the scoffing of pasquilles; then he shall schortly send you messagers, with whom ye shall not be able on that maner to jest. I did not speak unto you, madame, by my former lettre, neither yet do I now, as Pasquillus doth to the pope, in behalf of such as dare not utter their names; but I come, in the name of Jesus Christ, affirming that the religion which ye maintain is damnable idolatrie: the which I offre myselfe to prove by the most evident testimonies of Goddis Scriptures. And, in this quarrelle, I present myself againste all the Papistes within the realme, desireing none other armore but Goddis holie word, and the libertie of my tonge.”
While he was thus employed in Scotland, he received letters from the English congregation at Geneva, stating that they had made choice of him as one of their pastors, and urging him to come and take the inspection of them. He judged it his duty to comply with this invitation and began immediately to prepare for the journey. His wife and mother-in-law had by this time joined him at Edinburgh, and Mrs. Bowes, being now a widow, resolved to accompany Mrs. Knox and her husband to Geneva. Having sent them before him in a vessel to Dieppe, Knox again visited and took his leave of the brethren in the different places where he had preached. He was conducted, by his friend Campbell of Kineancleugh, to the Earl of Argyle, and preached for some days at his seat of Castle Campbell. That aged nobleman appears to have received durable impressions from the instructions of the Reformer. He resisted all the arts which the clergy afterwards employed to detach him from the Protestant interest, and on his deathbed laid a solemn charge upon his son to use his utmost influence for its preservation and advancement. Argyle, and Glenorchy, who was also a hearer of Knox, endeavored to detain him in Scotland, but without success. “If God so blessed their small beginnings,” he said, “that they continued in godliness, whensoever they pleased to command him, they should find him obedient. But once he must needs visit that little flock, which the wickedness of men had compelled him to leave.” Accordingly, in the month of July 1556, he left Scotland, and having joined his family at Dieppe, proceeded along with them to Geneva.
No sooner did the clergy understand that he had quitted the kingdom, than they, in a dastardly manner, renewed the summons against him which they had deserted during his presence, and, upon his failing to appear, passed sentence against him, adjudging his body to the flames, and his soul to damnation. As his person was out of their reach, they caused his effigy to be ignominiously burned at the cross of Edinburgh. Against this sentence he drew up his Appellation, which he afterwards published, with a supplication and exhortation, directed to the nobility and commonalty of Scotland. It may not be improper here to subjoin the summary which he gave in this treatise of the doctrine taught by him during his late visit to Scotland, which the clergy pronounced so execrable, and deserving of such horrible punishment. He taught that there is no other name by which men can be saved but that of Jesus, and that reliance on the merits of others is vain and delusive; that the Savior having by his one sacrifice sanctified and reconciled to God those who should inherit the promised kingdom, all other sacrifices which men pretend to offer for sin are blasphemous; that all men ought to hate sin, which is so odious before God that no sacrifice but the death of his Son could satisfy for it; that they ought to magnify their heavenly Father, who did not spare him who is the substance of his glory, but gave him up to suffer the ignominious and cruel death of the cross for us; and that those who have been washed from their former sins are bound to lead a new life, fighting against the lusts of the flesh, and studying to glorify God by good works. In conformity with the certification of his Master, that he would deny and be ashamed of those who should deny and be ashamed of him and his words before a wicked generation; he further taught that it is incumbent on those who hope for life everlasting to make an open profession of the doctrine of Christ, and to avoid idolatry, superstition, vain religion, and, in one word, every way of worship which is destitute of authority from the word of God. This doctrine he did believe so conformable to God’s holy Scriptures that he thought no creature could have been so impudent as to deny any point or article of it; yet had the false bishops and ungodly clergy condemned him as a heretic, and his doctrine as heretical, and pronounced against him the sentence of death, in testimony of which they had burnt his effigy, from which sentence he appealed to a lawful and general council, to be held agreeably to ancient laws and canons, humbly requesting the nobility and commons of Scotland to take him and others who were accused and persecuted under their protection, until such time as these controversies were decided, and to regard this his plain Appellation of no less effect than if it had been made with the accustomed solemnity and ceremonies.
The late visit of our Reformer was of vast consequence. By his labors on this occasion, he laid the foundations of that noble edifice which he was afterwards so instrumental in completing. The friends of the Protestant doctrine were separated from the corrupt communion to which, in a certain degree, they had hitherto adhered; their information in scriptural truth was greatly improved; and they were brought together in different parts of the nation, and prepared for being organized into a regular church, as soon as Providence should grant them external liberty, and furnish them with persons qualified for acting as overseers. Some may be apt to blame him for abandoning with too great precipitation the undertaking which he had so auspiciously begun. But, without pretending to ascertain the train of reflections which occurred to his mind, we may trace, in his determination, the wise arrangements of that Providence which watched over the infant Reformation and guided the steps of the Reformer. His absence was now no less conducive to the preservation of the cause, than his presence and personal labors had lately been to its advancement. Matters were not vet ripened for a general reformation in Scotland, and the clergy would never have suffered so zealous and able a champion of the new doctrines to live in the country. By retiring at this time, he not only preserved his own life, and reserved his labors to a more fit opportunity, but he also averted the storm of persecution from the heads of his brethren. Deprived of teachers, they became objects of less jealousy to their adversaries, while in their private meetings, they continued to confirm one another in the doctrine which they had received, and the seed lately sown had sufficient time to take root and spread.
Before he took his departure, Knox gave his brethren such directions as he judged most necessary and most useful to them in their present circumstances. Not satisfied with communicating these orally, he committed them to writing in a common letter, which he either left behind him or sent from Dieppe, to be circulated in the different quarters where he had preached. In this letter, he warmly recommends to everyone the frequent and careful perusal of the Scriptures. He inculcates the duty of attending to religious instruction and worship in each family. He exhorts the brethren to meet together once every week, if practicable, and gives them directions for conducting their assemblies in the manner best adapted for their mutual improvement while destitute of public teachers. They ought to begin with confession of sins and invocation of the divine blessing. A portion of the Scriptures should then be read, and they would find it of great advantage to observe a regular course in their reading, and to join a chapter of the Old and of the New Testament together. After the reading of the Scriptures, if an exhortation, interpretation, or doubt occurred to any brother, he might speak, but he ought to do it with modesty, and a desire to edify or to be edified, carefully avoiding “multiplication of words, perplexed interpretation, and willfulness in reasoning.” If, in the course of reading or conference, they met with any difficulties which they could not solve, he advised them to commit these to writing, before they separated, that they might submit them to the judgment of the learned, and he signified his own readiness to give them his advice, by letter, whenever it should be required. Their assemblies ought always to be closed, as well as opened, by prayer. There is every reason to conclude that these directions were punctually complied with; this letter may therefore be viewed as an important document regarding the state of the Protestant Church in Scotland previous to the establishment of the Reformation, and shall be inserted at large in the notes.
Among his subsequent letters are answers to questions which his countrymen had transmitted to him for advice. The questions are such as might be supposed to arise in the minds of pious persons lately made acquainted with Scripture, puzzled with particular expressions, and at a loss how to apply some of its directions to their situation. They discover an inquisitive and conscientious disposition, and at the same time, illustrate the disadvantages under which ordinary Christians labor when deprived of the assistance of learned teachers. Our Reformer’s answers display an intimate acquaintance with Scripture, and dexterity in expounding it, with prudence in giving advice in cases of conscience, so as not to encourage a dangerous laxity on the one hand, or scrupulosity and excessive rigidness on the other.
From the year 1556 when he returned to Geneva, after visiting Scotland, to May 1559, when he returned to Scotland for the last time.
Knox reached Geneva before the end of harvest, and took upon him the charge of the English congregation there, among whom he labored during the two following years. This short period was the most quiet of his life. In the bosom of his own family, he experienced that soothing care to which he had hitherto been a stranger, and which his frequent bodily ailments now required. Two sons were born to him in Geneva. The greatest affection to him, and cordiality among themselves, subsisted in the small flock under his charge. With his colleague, Christopher Goodman, he lived as a brother; and he was happy in the friendship of Calvin and the other pastors of Geneva. So much was he pleased with the purity of religion established in that city that he warmly recommended it to his religious acquaintances in England, as the best Christian asylum to which they could flee. “In my heart,” says he, in a letter to his friend Mr. Locke, “I could have wished, yea, and cannot cease to wish, that it might please God to guide and conduct me to this place, where, I neither fear nor eshame to say, the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles. In other places I confess Christ to be truly preached, but manners and religion to be to sincerely reformed, I have not yet seen in any other place beside.”
But neither the enjoyment of personal accommodations, nor the pleasures of literary society, nor the endearments of domestic happiness could subdue Knox’s ruling passion, or unfit his determination to revisit Scotland, as soon as an opportunity should offer, for advancing the Reformation among his countrymen. In a letter written to some of his friends in Edinburgh, March 16, 1557, he expresses himself in the following manner: “My own motion and daily prayer is, not only that I may visit you, but also that with joy I may end my battle among you. And assure yourself of this, that whenever a greater number among you shall call upon me than now hath bound me to serve them, by his grace it shall not be the fear of punishment, neither yet of the death temporal, that shall impede my coming to you.” A certain heroic confidence, and assurance of ultimate success, have often been displayed by those whom Providence has raised up to achieve great revolutions in the world, by which they have been borne up under discouragements which would have overwhelmed men of ordinary spirits and emboldened to face dangers from which others would have shrunk appalled. Knox possessed no inconsiderable portion of that enthusiastic heroism which was so conspicuous in the German reformer. “Satan, I confess, rageth,” says he, in a letter written at this time, “but potent is He that promiseth to be with us, in all such enterprises as we take in hand at his commandment, for the glory of his name, and for maintenance of his true religion. And therefore the less fear we any contrary power; yea, in the boldness of our God, we altogether contemn them, be they kings, emperors, men, angels, or devils. For they shall be never able to prevail against the simple truth of God which we openly profess; by the permission of God they may appear to prevail against our bodies, but our cause shall triumph in despite of Satan.”
Soon after the above letter had been written, two citizens of Edinburgh, James Syme and James Barron, arrived at Geneva with a letter and credentials from the Earl of Glencairn, and Lords Lorn, Erskine, and James Stewart, informing him that the professors of the reformed doctrine remained steadfast; that its adversaries were daily losing credit in the nation; and that those who possessed the supreme authority, although they had not yet declared themselves friendly to it, continued to refrain from persecution; and inviting him, in their own name, and in that of their brethren, to return to Scotland, where he would find them all ready to receive him, and to spend their lives and fortunes in advancing the cause which they had espoused.
Knox, at the same time that he laid this letter before his congregation, craved the advice of Calvin and the other ministers of Geneva. They gave it as their opinion, “that he could not refuse the call without shewing himself rebellious to God, and unmerciful to his country.” His congregation agreed to sacrifice their particular interest to the greater good of the Church, and his own family silently acquiesced. Upon this, he returned an answer to the letter of the nobility, signifying that he meant to visit them with all reasonable expedition. The congregation chose as his successor William Whittingham, a learned Englishman, with whom he had been long united by the ties of friendship and congeniality of sentiment. Having settled his other affairs, he took an affectionate leave of his friends at Geneva, and went to Dieppe in the month of October. But on his arrival there, he received letters from Scotland, written in a very different strain from the former. By these he was informed that new consultations had been held among the Protestants in that country, that some of them began to repent of the invitation which they had given him to return, and that greater part seemed irresolute and faint-hearted.
This intelligence exceedingly disconcerted and embarrassed him. He instantly dispatched a letter to the nobility who had invited him, upbraiding them for their timidity and inconstancy. The information which he had just received, had, he said, confounded him, and pierced his heart with sorrow. After taking advice of the most learned and godly in Europe, to satisfy his own conscience and theirs as to the propriety of this enterprise, the abandonment of it must reflect disgrace either on him or them—it argued either that he had been marvelously forward and vain, or that they had betrayed great imprudence and want of judgment in the invitation which they had given. To some it might appear a small matter that he had left his poor family destitute of a head, and committed the care of his little but dearly-beloved flock to another; but, for his part, he could not name the sum that would induce him to go through that scene a second time, and to behold so many grave men weeping at his departure. What answer could he give to whose who inquired why he did not prosecute his journey? He could take God to witness, that the personal inconveniences to which he had been subjected, and the mortification which he felt at the disappointment, were not the chief causes of his grief. He was alarmed at the awful consequences which would ensue—at the bondage and misery, spiritual and temporal, which they would entail on themselves and their children, their subjects and their posterity, if they neglected the present opportunity of introducing the gospel into their native country. In his conscience, he could exempt none that bore the name of nobility in Scotland from blame in this affair. His words might perhaps appear sharp and indiscreet, but charity would construe them in the best sense, and wise men would consider that a true friend cannot flatter, especially in a matter which involves the salvation of the bodies and souls, not of a few persons, but of a whole realm. “What are the sobs, and what is the affliction, of my troubled heart, God shall one day declare. But this will I add to my former rigor and severity, to wit, if any persuade you, for fear or dangers to follow, to faint in your former purpose, be he esteemed never so wise and friendly, let him be judged of you both foolish and your mortal enemy. I am not ignorant that fearful troubles shall ensue your enterprise, as in my former letters I did signify unto you. But, O! joyful and comfortable are those troubles and adversities which man sustaineth for accomplishment of God’s will revealed in his word. For how terrible soever they appear to the judgment of natural men, yet they are never able to devour nor utterly to consume the sufferers, for the invisible and invincible power of God sustaineth and preserveth, according to his promise, all such as with simplicity do obey him. No less cause have ye to enter in your former enterprise, than Moses had to go to the presence of Pharaoh; for 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 ye ought to hazard your own lives, be it against kings or emperors, for their deliverance. For only for that cause are ye called princes of the people, and receive honor, 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 uttermost of your power.
Having sent off this letter, with others written in the same strain, to Erskine of Dun, Wishart of Pitterow, and some other gentlemen of his acquaintance, he cherished the hope that he would soon receive more favorable accounts from Scotland, and resolved in the meantime to remain in France. The reformed doctrine had been early introduced into that kingdom; it had been copiously watered with the blood of martyrs; and all the violence which had been employed by its enemies had not been able to extirpate it, or to prevent its spreading among all ranks. The Parisian Protestants were at present smarting under the effects of one of those massacres, which so often disgraced the Roman Catholic religion in that country, before as well as after the commencement of the civil wars. Not satisfied with assaulting them when peaceably assembled for worship in a private house and treating them with great barbarity, their adversaries, in imitation of their pagan predecessors, invented the most diabolical calumnies against them and circulated the report that they were guilty of abominable practices in their religious assemblies. The innocent sufferers had drawn up an apology, in which they vindicated themselves from the atrocious charge, and Knox, having got this translated into English, wrote a preface and additions to it, with the intention of publishing it for the use of his countrymen.
Having formed an acquaintance with many of the Protestants of France, and being able to speak their language, he occasionally preached to them in passing through the country. It seems to have been on this occasion that he preached in the city of Rochelle, and having alluded to his native country in the course of his sermon, told his audience that he expected within a few years, to preach in the Church of St. Giles, in Edinburgh.
It does not appear that there were any Protestants in Dieppe when Knox first visited it. But he had now the satisfaction of officiating in a reformed church, recently planted in that town. In the course of the year 1557, a traveling merchant from Geneva, named John Venable, had come to Dieppe, and by his conversation and the circulation of books, imparted the knowledge of the Protestant doctrine to some of the inhabitants. At his request, they were visited by Delajonché, pastor at Rouen, who applied to the ministers of Geneva to furnish them with a preacher. They sent André de Sequeran, sieur d’Amont, who, having removed in the course of a few months, was succeeded by Delaporte, one of the pastors of the Church of Rouen. Knox, having come to Dieppe at this time, was chosen colleague to Delaporte, and under their ministry the Reformation was embraced by some of the principal persons of the town, and amongst the rest by M. de Bagueville, a descendant of Charles Martel. A surprising change was soon observed on the morals of the inhabitants, which had formerly been very dissolute, and the church at Dieppe continued long in a flourishing condition.
Being disappointed in his expectation of letters from Scotland, Knox determined to relinquish his journey and return to Geneva. This resolution does not accord with the usual firmness of our Reformer, and is not sufficiently accounted for in the common histories. The Protestant nobles had not retracted their invitation; the discouraging letters which he had received were written by individuals without any authority from the rest, and if their zeal and courage had begun to flag, his presence was the more necessary to recruit them. From the letters which he wrote to his familiar acquaintance, I am enabled to state the motives by which he was actuated in making this retrograde step. He was perfectly aware that a violent struggle must precede the establishment of the reformation in his native country; he knew that his presence in Scotland would excite the rage of the clergy, who would make every effort to crush their adversaries, and to maintain the lucrative system of superstition; and he dreaded that civil discord and tumult and bloodshed would ensue. The prospect of these things rushed into his mind, and, regardless of public tranquility as some have pronounced him to be, staggered his resolution to prosecute an undertaking, which, in his judgment, was not only lawful, but laudable and necessary. “When,” says he, “I heard such troubles as appeared in that realm, I began to dispute with myself as followeth: Shall Christ, the author of peace, concord, and quietness, be preached where war is proclaimed, sedition engendered, and tumults appear to rise? Shall not his evangel be accused as the cause of all this 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 her? But, above all, what joy shall it be to thy heart, to behold with thy eyes thy native country betrayed into the hands of strangers, which, to no man’s judgment, can be avoided; because, that those who ought to defend it, and the liberty thereof, are so blind, dull, and obstinate, that they will not see their own destruction.” To “these and more deep cogitations,” which continued to distract his mind for several months after he returned to Geneva, he principally imputed his abandonment of the journey to Scotland. At the same time, he was convinced that they were not sufficient to justify his desisting from an undertaking recommended by so many powerful considerations. “But, alas!” says he, “as the wounded man be 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 ignorant of what is to be done. It may also be that the doubts and cold writing of some brethren did augment my dolour, and somewhat discourage me that before was more nor feeble. But nothing do I so much accuse as myself.” Whatever were the secondary causes of this, I cannot help again directing the reader’s attention to the wisdom of Providence, in throwing impediments in his way, by which his return to Scotland was protracted to a period, before which it might have been injurious, and at which it was calculated to be in the highest degree beneficial, to the great cause that he meant to promote.
In judging of Knox’s influence in advancing the Reformation, we must take into view not only his personal labors, but also the epistolary correspondence which he maintained with his countrymen. By this he instructed them in his absence, communicated his own advice and that of the learned among whom he resided upon every difficult case which occurred, and animated them to constancy and perseverance. During his residence at Dieppe, he transmitted to Scotland two long letters, which deserve particular notice. The one, dated on the first of December, is directed to the Protestants in general; the other, dated on the seventeenth of that month, is addressed to the nobility. In both of them he prudently avoids any reference to his late disappointment.
In the first letter he strongly inculcates purity of morals, and warns all who professed the reformed religion against those irregularities of life which were employed to the disparagement of their cause by two classes of persons—by the Papists, who, although the same vices prevailed in a far higher degree among themselves, represented them as the native fruits of the reformed doctrine, and by a new sect, who were enemies to superstition, but who had deserted the reformed communion, and were become scarcely less hostile to it than the Papists. The principal design of this letter was to put his countrymen on their guard against the arts of this last class of persons, and to expose their leading errors.
The persons to whom he referred went under the general name of Anabaptists, a sect which sprung up soon after the commencement of the Reformation under Luther, and, breaking out into the greatest excesses, produced violent commotions in different parts of Germany. Being suppressed in the place of its birth, it spread through other countries, and secretly made converts by high pretensions to seriousness and Christian simplicity, the spirit of wild fanaticism, which at first characterized its disciples gradually subsiding after its first effervescence. Extravagancies of a similar kind have not unfrequently accompanied great revolutions; when the minds of men, released from the fetters of implicit obedience and dazzled by a sudden illumination, have been disposed to fly to the extreme of anarchy and turbulence. Nothing proved more vexatious to the original reformers than this. It was urged by the defenders of the old system as a popular argument against all change. The extravagant opinions and disorderly practices of the new sect, though disowned and opposed by all sober Protestants, were artfully imputed to them by their adversaries. And many, who had declared themselves friendly to reform, alarmed, or pretending to be alarmed, at this hideous specter, drew back, and sheltered themselves within the sacred pale of that Church, which, notwithstanding her notorious dissensions, errors, and corruption, both in head and members, continued to arrogate to herself exclusively the properties of unity, universality, and perpetual infallibility.
The radical error of this sect, according to the more improved system held by them at the time of which I write, was a fond conceit of a certain ideal spirituality and perfection, by which they considered the Christian Church to be essentially distinguished from the Jewish, which was, in their opinion, a mere carnal, secular society. Entertaining this notion, they were naturally led to abridge the rule of faith and manners, by confining themselves almost entirely to the New Testament, and to adopt their other opinions concerning the unlawfulness of infant baptism, of civil magistracy, national churches, oaths, and defensive war. But besides these tenets, the Anabaptists were, at this Period, generally infected with the Pelagian heresy, and united with the Papists in loading the doctrines which the reformers held respecting predestination and grace with the most odious charges.
Our Reformer had occasion to meet with some of these sectaries both in England and on the Continent, and had ascertained their extravagant and dangerous principles. In the year 1553, one of them came to his lodging in London, and, after requiring secrecy, gave him a book, written by one of the party, which he pressed him to read. It contained the following proposition: “God made not the world, nor the wicked creatures in it, but these were made by the devil, who is therefore called the god of this world.” He immediately warned the man against such gross doctrine, and began to explain to him the sense in which the devil is called “the god of this world” in Scripture. “Tush for your written word!” replied the enthusiast, “we have as good and as sure a word and verity that teacheth us this doctrine, as ye have for you and your opinion.” Having apprised that persons who had imbibed these opinions were creeping into Scotland, Knox was afraid that they might odiously instill their poison into the minds of some of his brethren. He refuted their opinion respecting church communion by showing that they required a purity which had never been found in the Church, either before or since the completion of the canon of Scripture. In opposition to their Pelagian tenets, he gave the following statement of his sentiments: “If there be any thing which God did not predestinate or appoint, then lacked he wisdom and free regimen; or, if any thing was ever done, or yet after shall be done, in heaven or in earth, which he might not have impeded (if so had been his godly pleasure), then he is not omnipotent; which three properties, to wit, wisdom, free regimen, and power, denied to be in God, I pray you what rests m his Godhead? The wisdom of our God we acknowledge to be such, that it compelleth the very malice of Satan, and the horrible iniquity of such as be drowned in sin, to serve to his glory, and to the profit of his elect. His power we believe and confess to be infinite, and such as no creature in heaven or earth is able to resist. And his regimen we acknowledge to be so free that none of his creatures dare present them in judgment, to reason or demand the question, why hast thou done this or that? But the fountain of this their damnable error (which is, that in God they can acknowledge no justice except that which their foolish brain is able to comprehend), at more opportunity, God willing, we shall entreat.”
He assigns his reasons for warning them so particularly against the seduction of these erroneous teachers. Under the cloak of mortification and the color of a godly life, they “supplanted the dignity of Christ,” and “were become enemies to free justification by faith in his blood.” The malice of Papists was now visible to all the world; the hypocrisy of mercenary teachers and ungodly professors would soon discover itself; and seldom had open tyranny been able to suppress the true religion when it had once been earnestly embraced by the body of any nation or province. “But deceivable and false doctrine is a poison and venom, which, once drunken and received, with great difficulty can afterwards be purged.” Accordingly, he charged them to “try the spirits” which came to them, and to suffer no man to take the office of preacher upon him of his own accord, and without trial, or to assemble the people in secret meetings, else Satan would soon have his emissaries among them, who would “destroy the plantation of our heavenly Father.” His admonitions, on this head, were not without effect, and the Protestants of Scotland, instead of being distracted with those opinions, remained united in their views, as to doctrine, worship, and discipline.
His letter to the Protestant lords breathes an ardent and elevated spirit. Its object was to purify their minds from selfish and worldly principles—to raise, sanctify, and christianize their views, by exhibiting and recommending to them the examples of those great and good men whose characters were delineated, and whose deeds were recorded, in the sacred annals. The glory of God, the advancement of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the salvation of themselves and their brethren, the emancipation of their country from spiritual and political bondage—these, and not their own honor and aggrandizement, or the revenging of their petty private feuds, were the objects which they ought to keep steadily and solely in view.
In this letter, he also communicates his advice on the delicate question of resistance to supreme rulers. They had consulted him on this subject and had submitted it to the judgment of the most learned men on the Continent. Soon after they had agreed to the marriage of their young queen to the dauphin of France, the Scots began to be jealous of the designs of the French court against their liberties and independence. Their jealousies increased after the regency was transferred to the queen dowager, who was wholly devoted to the interest of France, and had contrived, under different pretexts, to keep a body of French troops in the kingdom. It was not difficult to excite to resistance the independent and haughty barons of Scotand, accustomed to yield a very limited and precarious science even to their native princes. They had lately given proof of this by their refusal to co-operate in the war against England, which they considered as undertaken merely for French interests. And, encouraged by this circumstance, the Duke of Chastelherault had begun, under the direction of his brother, the Archbishop of St. Andrews, to intrigue for regaining the authority which he had reluctantly resigned.
Our Reformer displayed his moderation and the soundness of his principles by the advice which he gave at this critical period. He did not attempt to inflame the irascible minds of nobility by aggravating the mal-administration of the queen regent; far less did he advise them to join with the duke and others who were discontented with the government, and to endeavor in this way to advance their cause. Instead of this, he informed them that it was currently reported on the Continent that a rebellion was intended in Scotland, and he solemnly charged all the professors of the Protestant religion to avoid accession to it, and to beware of countenancing those who sought to promote their private and worldly ends by disturbing the government. “He did not mean,” he said, “to retract the principle which he had advanced in former letters, nor to deny the lawfulness of inferior magistrates, and the body of a nation, resisting the tyrannical measures of supreme rulers.” He still held, that there was “a great difference between lawful obedience, and a fearful flattering of princes, or an unjust accomplishment of their desires, in things which be required or devised for the destruction of a commonwealth.” The nobility were the hereditary guardians of the national liberties, and there were limits beyond which obedience was not due by subjects. But recourse ought not to be had to resistance, except when matters were tyrannically driven to an extreme. And it was peculiarly incumbent on the Protestants of Scotland to be circumspect in all their proceedings, that they might give their adversaries no reason to allege that seditious and rebellious designs were concealed under the cloak of zeal for reforming religion. His advice and solemn charge to them therefore was, that they should continue to yield cheerful obedience to all the lawful commands of the regent, and endeavor, by humble and repeated requests, to procure her favor, and to prevail upon her, if not to promote their cause, at least to protect them from persecution. If she refused to take any steps for reforming religion, it was their duty to provide that the gospel should be preached, and the sacraments administered in purity to themselves and their brethren. If, while they were endeavoring peaceably to accomplish this, attempts should be made to crush them by violence, he did not think, considering the station which they occupied, that they were bound to look on and see their innocent brethren murdered. On the contrary, it was lawful for them, nay, it was their incumbent duty, to stand up in their defense. But even in this case they ought to protest their readiness to obey the regent in everything consistent with their fidelity to God, and to avoid all association with the ambitious, the factious, and the turbulent.
This is a specimen of the correspondence which Knox maintained with the Protestant nobility, by which he enlightened their views, aroused their zeal, and restrained their impetuosity, at this important juncture. I shall afterwards have occasion to call the attention of the reader more particularly to his political principles.
Knox returned to Geneva in the beginning of the year 1558. During that year, he was engaged, along with several learned men of his congregation, in making a new translation of the Bible into English; which, from the place where it was composed and first printed, has obtained the name of the Geneva Bible. It was at this time also that he published his Letter to the Queen Regent, and his Appellation and Exhortation, both of which were transmitted to Scotland, and contributed not a little to the spread of the reformed opinions. I have already given an account of the first of these tracts, which was chiefly intended for removing the prejudices of Roman Catholics. The last was more immediately designed for instructing and animating the friends of the reformed religion. Addressing himself to the ability and estates of the kingdom, he shows that the care and reformation of religion belonged to them as civil rulers, and constituted one of the primary duties of their office. This was a dictate of nature as well as revelation, and he would not insist on it, lest he should seem to suppose them “lesse careful over God’s true religion, than were the ethnicks [heathen] over their idolatrie.” inferior magistrates, within the sphere of their jurisdiction, the nobles and estates of a kingdom, as well as kings and princes, here bound to attend to this high duty. He then addresses himself to the commonalty of Scotland, and points out their duty and interest, with regard to the important controversy in agitation. They were rational creatures, formed after the image of God; they had souls to be saved; they were accountable for their conduct; they were bound to judge of the truth of religion, and to make profession of it, as well as kings, nobles, or bishops. If idolatry was maintained, if the gospel was suppressed, if the blood of the innocent was shed, and if, in these circumstances, they kept silence, and did not exert themselves to prevent such evils, how could they vindicate their conduct?
But the most singular treatise published this year by Knox, and that which made the greatest noise, was, “The first Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women,” in which he attacked, with great vehemence, the practice of admitting females to the government of nations. There is some reason to think that his mind was struck with the incongruity of this practice as early as Mary’s accession to the throne of England. This was probably one of the points on which he had conferred with the Swiss divines in 1554. That his sentiments respecting it were fixed in 1556, appears from an incidental reference to the subject in one of his familiar letters. Influenced, however, by deference to the opinion of others, he refrained for a considerable time from publishing them to the world. But, at last, provoked by the tyranny of the queen of England, and wearied out with her increasing cruelties, he applied the trumpet to his mouth, and uttered a terrible blast. “To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion, or empire, above any realm, nation, or city, is repugnant to nature, contumely to God, a thing most contrarious to his revealed will and approved ordinance, and, finally, it is a subversion of all equity and justice.” Such is the first sentence and principal proposition of the work. The arguments by which he endeavors to establish it are that nature intended the female sex for subjection, not superiority, to the male, as appears from their infirmities, corporal and mental (excepting always such as God, “by singular privilege, and for certain causes, exempted from the common rank of women”); that the divine law, announced at the creation of the first pair, had expressly assigned to man the dominion over woman, and commanded her to be subject to him; that female government was not permitted among the Jews; that it is contrary to apostolical injunctions; and that it leads to the perversion of government, and other pernicious consequences.
Knox’s theory on this subject was not novel. In support of his opinion, he could appeal to the constitutions of the free states of antiquity, and to the authority of their most celebrated legislators and philosophers. In the kingdom of France, females were, by an express law, excluded from succeeding to the crown. Edward VI some time before his death, had proposed to the privy council the adoption of this law in England, but the motion, not suiting the ambitious views of the Duke of Northumberland, was overruled. Though his opinion was sanctioned by such high authority, Knox was by no means sanguine in his expectations as to the reception of this performance. He tells us in the preface that he laid his account not only with the indignation of those who were interested in the support of the reprobated practice, but also with the disapprobation of such gentle spirits among the learned as would be alarmed at the boldness of the attack. He did not doubt that he would be called “curious, despiteful, a sower of sedition, and one day perchance be attainted for treason,” but in uttering a truth of which he was deeply convinced, he was determined to “cover his eyes, and shut his ears” from these dangers and obloquies. He was not mistaken in his anticipations. It exposed him to the resentment of two queens, during whose reign it was his lot live—the one his native princess, and the other exerting a sway Scotland scarcely inferior to that of any of its monarchs. Several of the English exiles approved of his opinion, and few of them would have been displeased at seeing it reduced to practice, at the time that the Blast was published. But Queen Mary dying soon after it appeared, and her sister Elizabeth succeeding her, they raised a great outcry against it. John Fox wrote a letter to the author in which he expostulated with him in a very friendly manner, as to the impropriety of the publication and the severity of its language. Knox, in his reply, did not excuse his “rude vehemencie and inconsidered affirmations, which may appear rather to procead from coler then of zeal and reason,” but signified that he was still persuaded of the principal proposition which he had maintained.
His original intention was to blow his trumpet thrice, and to and to publish his name with the last blast, to prevent the odium from falling on any other person. But finding that it gave offense to many of his brethren, and being desirous to strengthen rather than invalidate the authority of Elizabeth, he relinquished his design of prosecuting the discussion. He retained his sentiments to the last, but abstained from any further declaration of them, and from replying to his opponents, although he was provoked by their censures and triumph, and sometimes hinted in his private letters that he would break silence if they did not study greater moderation.
In the course of the following year, an answer to the Blast appeared under the title of “An Harborowe for Faithful Subjects.” Though anonymous, like the book to which it was a reply, it was soon declared to be the production of John Aylmer, one of the English refugees on the Continent, who had been archdeacon of Stowe, and tutor to Lady Jane Grey. It was not undertaken until the accession of Elizabeth, and was written, as Aylmer’s biographer informs us, “upon a consultation holden among the exiles, the better to obtain the favor of the new queen, and to take off any jealousy she might conceive of them, and of the religion which they professed.” Aylmer himself says, that if the author of the Blast “had not swerved from the particular question to the general,” but had confined himself to the queen who filled the throne when he wrote, “he could have said nothing too much, nor in such wise as to have offended any indifferent man,” and he allows with Knox that Mary’s government was “unnatural, unreasonable, unjust, and unlawful.” From these and some other considerations, Knox was induced to express a suspicion that his opponent had accommodated his doctrine to the times, and courted the favor of the reigning princess by flattering her vanity and love of power. It is certain, that if Knox is entitled to the praise of boldness and disinterestedness, Aylmer carried away the palm for prudence; the latter was advanced to the bishopric of London, the former could not, without great difficulty, obtain leave to set his foot again upon English ground. Knox’s trumpet would never have sounded its alarm, had it not been for the tyranny of Mary, and there is reason to think that Aylmer would never have opened his “Harborowe for Faithful Subjects,” but for the auspicious succession of Elizabeth.
This, however, is independent of the merits of the question, which I do not feel inclined to examine minutely. The change which has taken place in the mode of administering government in modern times renders it of less practical importance than it was formerly, when so much depended upon the personal talents and activity of the reigning prince. It may be added that the evils incident to a female reign will be less felt under such a constitution as that of Britain than under a pure and absolute monarchy. This last consideration is urged by Aylmer, and here his reasoning is most satisfactory. The Blast bears the mark of hasty composition. The Harborowe has evidently been written with great care; it contains a good collection of historical facts bearing on the question, and though more distinguished for rhetorical exaggeration than logical precision, the reasoning is ingeniously conducted and occasionally livened by strokes of humor. It is, upon the whole, a curious as well as rare work.
After all, it is easier to vindicate the expediency of continuing the practice, where it has been established by law and wage, than to support the affirmative, when the question is propounded as a general thesis on government. It may fairly be questioned, if Aylmer had refuted the principal arguments of his opponent, and had Knox deemed it prudent to rejoin, he might have exposed the fallacy of his reasoning in different instances. In replying to the argument from the apostolical canon, the archdeacon is not a little puzzled. Distrusting his distinction between the greater office, “the ecclesiastical function,” and the less, “extern policy,” he argues that the apostle’s prohibition may be considered as temporary and peculiarly applicable to the women of his own time, and he insists that his clients shall not, in toto, be excluded from teaching and ruling in the Church any more than in the State. “Me thinke,” says he, very seriously, “even in this poynte, we must use επιειχεια, a certain moderacion, not absolutely, and in every wise to debar them herein (as it shall please God) to serve Christ. Are there not, in England, women, think you, that for their learninge and wisdom, could tell their householde and neighbouris as good a tale as the best Sir Jhone there?” Beyond all question. Who can doubt that the learned Lady Elizabeth, who on a certain time interrupted the dean of her chapel and told him to “stick to his text,” was able to make as good a sermon as any of her clergy? or, that she was better qualified for other parts of the duty, when she composed a book of prayers for herself, while they were obliged to use one made to their hands? In fact, the view which the archdeacon gave of the text was necessary to vindicate the authority of his queen, who was head, or supreme governor, of the Church, as well as of the State. She who, by law, had supreme authority over all the reverend and right reverend divines in the land, with power to superintend, suspend, and control them in all their ecclesiastical functions, who, by her injunctions, could direct the primate himself when to preach, and how to preach, and who could license and silence ministers at her pleasure, must have been bound very moderately indeed by the apostolical prohibition, “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Reason would also say, that she had an equal right to assume the exercise of the office in her own person, if she chose to avail herself of that right, and had she issued a congé d’ élire, accompanied with her royal recommendation to elect some learned sister to a vacant see, the archdeacon at least would not have felt so squeamish at complying with it, as the Italian university did at conferring the degree of Doctor in Divinity upon the learned Helen Lucrecia Piscopia Cornaca.
There are some things in the Harborowe which might have been unpalatable to the queen, if the author had not sweetened them with that personal flattery, which was as agreeable to Elizabeth as to others of her sex and rank, and which he took care to administer in sufficient quantities before concluding his work. The ladies will be ready to excuse a slight slip of the pen in the good archdeacon, in consideration of the handsome manner in which he has defended their right to rule, but they will scarcely believe that the following description of the sex could proceed from him. “Some women,” says he, “be wiser, better learned, discreater, constanter, than a number of men,” but others (“the most part,” according to his biographer) he describes as “fond, foolish, wanton, fiibbergibs, tatlers, trifling, wavering, witles, without counsel, feable, carles, rashe, proud, daintie, nise, tale-bearers, eves-droppers, rumor-raisers, evil-tongued, worse-minded, and, in every wise, doltified with the dregges of the devil’s doungehill !!!” The rude author of the monstrous Blast never spoke of the sex in terms half so disrespectful as these. One would suppose that Aylmer had already renounced the character of advocate of the fair sex and recanted his principles on that head, as he did respecting the titles and revenues of bishops, which he inveighed against before his return from exile, but afterwards accepted with little scruple; and, when reminded of the language which he had formerly used, apologized for himself by saying, “When I was a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things. But it is time to return to the narrative.
Our Reformer’s letter to the Protestant lords in Scotland produced its intended effect in reanimating their drooping courage. At a consultative meeting, held at Edinburgh in December 1557, they unanimously resolved to adhere to one another, and exert themselves in advancing the Reformation. Having subscribed a solemn bond of mutual assistance, they renewed their invitation to Knox, and being afraid that he might hesitate on account of their former irresolution, they wrote to Calvin, to employ his influence to induce him to comply. Their letters did not reach Geneva until November 1558. By the same conveyance, Knox received letters of a later date, communicating the most agreeable intelligence respecting the progress which the reformed cause had made and the flourishing appearance which it continued to wear in Scotland.
Through the exertions of our Reformer, during his residence among them in the year 1556, and in pursuance of the instructions which he left behind him, the Protestants had formed themselves into congregations, which met in different parts of the country with greater or less privacy, according to the opportunities which they enjoyed. Having come to the resolution of withdrawing from the Popish worship, they provided for their religious instruction and mutual edification in the best manner that their circumstances would permit. As there were no ministers among them, they continued for some time to be deprived of the dispensation of the sacraments, but certain intelligent and pious men of their number were chosen to read to Scriptures, to exhort, and offer up prayers in their assemblies. Convinced of the necessity of order and discipline in their societies, and desirous to have them organized, as far as was in their power, agreeably to the institution of Christ, they next proceeded to choose elders for the inspection of their manners, to whom they promised subjection, and deacons for the collection and distribution of alms to the poor. Edinburgh was the first place in which this order was established, Dundee the first town in which a reformed Church was completely organized, provided with a regular minister, and favored with the dispensation of the sacraments.
During the war with England, which began in Autumn 1556, and continued through the following year, the Protestants enjoyed considerable liberty; and they improved it with great zeal and success. The clergy were not indifferent to the progress which the reformed opinions were daily making, and they prevailed with the regent to summon such as had presumed to preach without their authority, but she was obliged to abandon the process against them, in consequence of the arrival of certain gentlemen from the west country who demanded their release in a tone which declared that they were resolved not to be refused.
At a meeting of the nobles and barons attached to the Reformation, held at Edinburgh in December 1557, two resolutions were adopted for regulating their conduct in the present delicate juncture. It was agreed, in the first place, that they should rest satisfied for the present with requiring that prayers, and the lessons of the Old and New Testament, should be read in English, according to the book of Common Prayer, in every parish, on Sundays and festival days, by the curates of the respective parishes, or, if they were unable or unwilling, by such persons within the bounds as were best qualified. And, secondly, that the reformed preachers should teach in private houses only, till the government should allow them to preach in public. The first resolution has been represented as an unwarrantable assumption of authority by this reforming assembly, and as implying that they had a right to dictate to the whole nation, by setting aside the established worship, and imposing a new form. This construction is, however, irreconcilable with the situation in which they were then placed, and with the moderate and submissive tone in which they continued to urge their claims at a subsequent period. It is rather to be viewed as expressing the opinion of that meeting respecting the degree of reformation which individuals of their body might introduce, in places to which their authority and influence extended. And, accordingly, it was reduced to practice in many parishes where Protestant barons resided and where the people were disposed to imitate their example.
In pursuance of the second resolution agreed on at the general meeting, the Earl of Argyle undertook the protection of John Douglas, a Carmelite friar, who had embraced the reformed sentiments, and the rest of the preachers were received into the houses of other barons, and employed to preach as their chaplains. This measure alarmed the clergy no less than the former practice of itinerant preaching had done. They saw that it would be vain to commence prosecutions against preachers who were entertained in the families of the principal men in the kingdom, and they resolved to exert all their influence to deprive them of such powerful patronage. Presuming upon the easy temper of the aged Earl of Argyle, and upon the friendship which had long subsisted between his family and the Hamiltons, the Archbishop of St. Andrews wrote a letter to that nobleman in a very insinuating strain, and at the same time sent a relation of his own, Sir David Hamilton, with instructions to represent the danger to which he exposed his noble house by countenancing Douglas, and to entreat him, in the most earnest manner, to withdraw his protection from such a pestilent heretic. Argyle’s reply was temperate and respectful, but at the same time firm and spirited; he not only vindicated the doctrine taught by his chaplain and refused to dismiss him, but made several shrewd and pointed remarks which the archbishop could not fail to apply to himself. The bishop having written that he felt himself bound “in honor and conscience” to inquire into the heresies of which Douglas was accused, the earl replies, “He preiches against idolatrie, I remit to your lordschip’s conscience gif it be heresie or not; he preiches against adultrie and fornicatioun, I referre that to your lordschip’s conscience; he preiches against hypocrisie, I referre that to your lordschip’s conscience; he ptreiches against all maner of abuses and corruptioun of Christis sincere religioun, I referre that to your lordschip’s conscience. My lord, I exhort yow, in Christis name, to wey all thir affairis in your conscience, and consider if it be your dewtie also not onlie to thole [endure] this, bot in like maner to do the same. This is all, my lord, that I varie in my age, and na uthar thing hot that I knew not befoir these offences to be abhominable to God, and now, knawing his will by manifestatioun of his word, abhorres thame.” Referring to the bishop’s offer to send him a learned and catholic teacher, the earl replies, “God Almichtie send us mony of that sorte, that will preiche trewlie, and nathing but ane catholic universall Christian fayth; and we Heiland rude pepill hes mister [need] of thame. And if your lordschip wald get and provyde me sic a man, I sould provyde him a corporal leving as to my self, with grit thanks to your lordschip, for trewlie, I and many ma hes grit mister of sic men. And becaus I am abill to sustain ma nor ane of thame, I will requeist your lordschip earnestlie to provyde me sic a man as ye wrait, for the harvest is grit, and thair are few labouraris.”
Foiled in his attempts to prevail on the nobility to withdraw their protection from the preachers, the archbishop determined to wreak his vengeance upon such of them as were still within his power, and proceeded to revive those cruel measures which had been suspended for several years, by the political circumstances of the country rather than by the clemency and moderation of the clergy. Walter Mill, parish priest of Lunan in Angus, having been condemned as a heretic in the time of Cardinal Beatoun, had escaped from execution and continued to preach, sometimes in private, and at other times openly, in different quarters of the kingdom. Being lately discovered by one of the archbishop’s spies, he was brought to trial at St. Andrews. He appeared before the court so worn out with age and the hardships which he had endured, that it was not expected he would be able to answer the questions which might be put to him, but, to the surprise of all, he conducted his defense with great spirit. Such was the compassion excited by his appearance and the horror which was now felt at the punishment to which he was doomed, that the clergy, after pronouncing him guilty, could not procure a secular judge to pass sentence of death upon him, and the archbishop was at last obliged to employ a worthless servant of his own to perform the odious task. On the twenty-eighth of August 1558, Mill expired amidst the flames, uttering these words: “As for me, I am fourscore and two years old, and cannot live long by course of nature; but a hundred better shall rise out of the ashes of my bones. I trust in God, I shall be the last that shall suffer death in Scotland for this cause!”
This barbarous and illegal execution produced effects of the greatest importance. It raised the horror of the nation to an incredible pitch; and as it was believed at that time that the regent was not accessory to the deed, their indignation was rested wholly against the clergy. Throwing aside all fear and disregarding those restraints which prudence, or respect for established order, had hitherto imposed on them, the people now assembled openly to join in the reformed worship, and avowed their determination to adhere to it at all hazards. Harlow, Douglas, Paul Methven, and some others were emboldened to speak through the regulations to which they had submitted, and began to preach and administer the sacraments, with greater publicity than formerly. In the month of October, they were joined by John Willock, who returned a second time from Embden.
Meanwhile, the Protestant barons, having assembled at Edinburgh in the month of July, had resolved to lay their complaints in a formal manner before the regent. They renewed the request which they had formerly made, that she would, by her authority and in concurrence with the parliament, restrain the violence of the clergy, correct the flagrant and insufferable abuses which prevailed in the Church, and grant to them and their brethren the party of religious instruction and worship, at least according to a restricted plan which they laid before her, and to which they were willing to submit, till their grievances should be deliberately examined and legally redressed. Their petition was presented to the regent in the palace of Holyroodhouse, by Sir James Sandilands of Calder, in the presence of a number of the nobility and bishops. Her reply was such as to persuade them that she was friendly to their proposals; she promised that she would take measures for carrying them legally into effect as soon as it was in her power, and assured them, that, in the mean time, they might depend on her protection.
It did not require many arguments to persuade Knox to comply with an invitation which was accompanied with such gratifying intelligence, and he began immediately to prepare for his journey to Scotland. The future settlement of the congregation under his charge occupied him for some time. Information being received of the death of Mary, Queen of England, and the accession of Elizabeth, the Protestant refugees hastened to return to their native country. The congregation at Geneva, having met to return thanks to God for this deliverance, agreed to send one of their number with letters to their brethren in different places of the Continent, and particularly in Frankfort, congratulating them on the late happy change, and requesting a confirmation of the mutual reconciliation which had already been effected, the burial of all past offenses, and a brotherly co-operation, in endeavoring to obtain such a settlement of religion in England as would be agreeable to all the sincere well-wishers of the Reformation. A favorable return to their letters being obtained, they took leave of the hospitable city, and set out for their native country. By them Knox sent letters to some of his former acquaintances, who were now in the court of Elizabeth, requesting permission to travel through England on his way to Scotland.
In the month of January 1559, our Reformer took his leave of Geneva for the last time. In addition to former marks of respect, the republic, before his departure, conferred on him the freedom of the city. He left his wife and family behind him, until he should ascertain that they could live with safety in Scotland. Upon his arrival at Dieppe, in the middle of March, he received information that the English government had refused to grant him liberty to pass through their dominions. The request had appeared so reasonable to his own mind, considering the station which he had held in that country, and the object of his present journey, that he once thought of proceeding to London without waiting for a formal permission, yet it was with some difficulty that those who presented his letters escaped imprisonment.
This impolitic severity was occasioned by the informations of the exiles, who had not forgotten the old quarrel at Frankfort, and had accused of disloyalty and disaffection to the queen, not only Knox, but all those who had been under his charge at Geneva, whom they represented as proselytes to the opinion which he had published against female government. There was not an individual who could believe that Knox had a most distant eye to Elizabeth in publishing the obnoxious book, nor a person of judgment who could seriously think that her government was exposed to the slightest danger from his associates, who felt no less joy at her auspicious accession than their brethren. If he had been imprudent in that publication, if he had “swerved from the particular question to general,” his error (to use the words of his respondent) “rose not of malice, but of zeal, and by looking more to the present cruelty, than to the inconveniences that after might follow,” and it was the part of generosity and of good policy to overlook the fault. Instead of this, Elizabeth and her counselors took up the charge in a serious light, and the accused were treated with such harshness and disdain that they repented of leaving their late asylum to return to their native country. One cannot help feeling indignant at this weak revenge, when it is considered that Elizabeth had admitted to favor, and retained at court, persons who had endeavored to prevent her succession, and who had thirsted for her blood,” and that those who, under the preceding reign, had advised and practiced the greatest severities against the Protestants, were now treated with the utmost lenity. Even the infamous Bonner was allowed to appear at court, and although the queen shuddered at the thought of a man who was polluted with so much blood kissing her hand, yet was he at this time going about London without the smallest molestation. In the first parliament of Elizabeth, one Dr. Storey made a speech, in which he had the effrontery to justify the cruelties of Mary, to boast of his own activity in carrying her orders into execution, and to regret that measures still more violent and effectual had not been adopted for the utter extirpation of heresy. Nor does it appear that this speech was resented either by the house or by the queen.
De nobis, post hæc, tristis sententia fertur. Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas.
The refusal of his request, and the harsh treatment of his flock, touched to the quick the irritable temper of our Reformer, and it was with some difficulty that he suppressed the desire which he felt rising in his breast, to prosecute a controversy which he had resolved to abandon. “My First Blast,” says he, in a letter dated Dieppe, 6th April 1559, “hath blown from me all my friends in England. My conscience bears record that yet I seek the favor of my God, and so I am in the less fear. The Second Blast, I fear, shall sound somewhat more sharp, except that men be more moderate than I hear they are. England hath refused me, but because, before, it did refuse Christ Jesus, the less do I regard the loss of this familiarity. And yet have I been a secret and assured friend to thee, O England, in cases which thyself could not have remedied. But greater designs occupied his mind and engrossed his attention. It was not for the sake of personal safety, nor from the vanity of appearing at court, that he desired to pass through England. He felt the natural wish to visit his old acquaintances in that country and was anxious for an opportunity of once more addressing those to whom he had preached, especially at Newcastle and Berwick. But there was another object which he had still more at heart, and in which the welfare of both England Scotland was concerned.
Notwithstanding the flattering accounts which he had received of the favorable disposition of the queen regent towards the Protestants, and the directions which he sent them to cultivate this, he appears to have always entertained suspicions of the sincerity of her professions. Since he left Geneva, these suspicions had been confirmed, and the information which he had procured in traveling through France conspired with intelligence which he had lately received from Scotland, to convince him that the immediate suppression of the Reformation in his native country, and its consequent suppression in the neighboring kingdom, were intended. The plan projected by the gigantic ambition of the princes of Lorrain, brothers of the queen regent of Scotland, has been developed and described with great accuracy and ability by a celebrated modern historian. Suffice it to say here that their counsels had determined the French court to set up the claim of the young Queen of Scots to the crown of England; to attack Elizabeth, and wrest the scepter from her hands, under the pretext that she was a bastard and a heretic; and to commence their operations suppressing the Reformation, and establishing the French presence in Scotland, as the best preparative to an attack upon the dominions of the English queen. In the course of his journeys through France, Knox had formed an acquaintance with certain persons about the court, and, by their means, had gained some knowledge of this plan. He was convinced that the Scottish reformers were able to resist the power which France might bring against them, and that it was no less the interest than the duty of the English court to afford them the most effectual support. But he was afraid that a selfish and narrow policy might prevent them from doing this until it was too late, and was therefore anxious to call their attention to the subject at an early period, and to put them in possession of the facts that had come to his knowledge. The assistance which Elizabeth granted to the Scottish Protestants in the year 1560 was dictated by the soundest policy. It baffled and defeated the designs of her enemies at the very outset; it gave her an influence over Scotland, which all her predecessors could not obtain by the terror of their arms nor the influence of their money, and it secured the stability of her government by extending and strengthening the Protestant interest, the principal pillar on which it rested. And it reflects not a little credit on our Reformer’s sagacity, that he had conceived this plan at so early a period, was the first person who proposed it, and persisted, in spite of great discouragements, to urge its adoption, until his endeavors were ultimately crowned with success.
He had an opportunity of receiving a confirmation of this intelligence during his voyage to Scotland. In the same ship in which he sailed, there was sent by the French court to the queen regent a staff of state, with a great seal, on which were engraved the arms of France, Scotland, and England. This was shown to him in great secrecy. The English court, after they were awakened from their lethargy and convinced of the hostile designs of France, applied to Knox for the information which they might have had from him six months before.
Deeply impressed with these considerations, he resolved, although he had already been twice repulsed, to brook the mortification, and make another attempt to obtain an interview with some confidential agent of the English government. With this view, he, on the tenth of April, wrote a letter to secretary Cecil, with whom he had been personally acquainted during his residence in London. Adverting to the treatment of the exiles who had returned from Geneva, he exculpated them from all responsibility as to the offensive book which he had published and assured him that he had not consulted with any of them previous to its publication. As for himself, he did not mean to deny that he was the author, nor was he yet prepared to retract the leading sentiment which it contained. But he was not on that account less friendly to the person and government of Elizabeth, in whose exaltation he cordially rejoiced, although he rested the defense of her authority upon grounds different from the common. This was the third time that he had craved liberty to pass through England. He had no desire to visit the court, nor to remain long in the country; but he was anxious to communicate to him, or some other trusty person, matters of great importance, which it was not prudent to commit to writing, or entrust to an ordinary messenger. If his request was refused, it would turn out to the disadvantage of England.
The situation in which he stood at this time with the court of England was so well known that it was not without great difficulty that he could find a messenger to carry his letter, and, after despairing of the success of his application, or urged by intelligence received from Scotland, he sailed from Dieppe on the twenty-second of April, and landed safely at Leith on the second of May 1559.
From May 1559, when he finally returned to Scotland, to August 1560, when he was settled as a minister of Edinburgh, at the establishment of the Reformation
On his arrival, Knox found matters in the most critical state in Scotland. The queen regent had thrown off the mask which she had long worn, and avowed her determination forcibly to suppress the Reformation. As long as she stood in need of the assistance of the Protestants to support her authority against the Hamiltons, and to procure the matrimonial crown for her son-in-law, the dauphin of France, she courted their friendship, listened to their plans of reform, professed her dissatisfaction with the ecclesiastical order, and her desire of correcting its corruption and tyranny as soon as a fit opportunity offered, and flattered them, if not with the hopes of her joining their party, at least with the assurances that she would shield them from the fury of the clergy. So completely were they duped by her consummate address and dissimulation that they complied with all her requests, restrained their preachers from preaching in public, and desisted from presenting to the parliament a petition which they had prepared, nor would they believe her to be insincere, even after different parts of her conduct had afforded strong grounds for suspicion. But, having accomplished the great objects which she had in view, she at last adopted measures which completely undeceived them, and discovered the gulf into which they were about to be precipitated.
As this discovery of the regent’s duplicity produced consequences of the greatest importance, as it completely alienated from her the minds of the reformers and aroused that spirit of determined and united opposition to her insidious policy and her violent measures, which ultimately led to the establishment of the Reformation, and as the facts connected with it have not been accurately or fully stated in our common histories, the reader may not be displeased at having the following more circumstantial detail laid before him.
A mutual jealousy had long subsisted between the queen regent and that able but unprincipled prelate, Archbishop Hamilton, whose zeal for the Church was uniformly subordinated to personal ambition and the desire of aggrandizing his family. While he exerted the influence which his station gave him over the clergy to embarrass the administration of the regent, she employed the Protestants as a counterbalance to his power. But amidst the jarring excited by rival interests, both parties beheld the rapid progress of the reformed sentiments with equal concern, and intelligent persons early foresaw that their differences would finally be compromised, and a coalition formed between them to accomplish the ruin of the Protestants. It not appear that the primate ever entertained the slightest suspicion that the regent was friendly to the cause of the Reformers. Independently of her own sentiments, he was well acquainted with the influence which her brothers possessed over her, and with their devoted attachment to the Roman Catholic Church. Had he not had good reasons for presuming upon her connivance and secret approbation, his known prudence would not have allowed him to venture upon the invidious measure of putting Mill to death. As early as July 1558, she had held consultations with him on the course which should be adopted checking the Reformation. In consequence of this, steps taken to bring to trial certain individuals who had given offense to the clergy by expounding the Scriptures in private meetings and contemning the laws of the Church. And immediately after the meeting of parliament in November, at which the regent obtained, by the assistance of the Protestants, all the objects which she wished to carry, the primate received positive assurances of her support in his exertions for maintaining the authority of the Church. Accordingly, in the end of December, he summoned the reformed preachers to appear him before in St. Andrews, on the second of February following, to answer for their conduct in usurping the sacred office and disseminating heretical doctrines.
Upon this, a deputation of the Protestants waited on the regent and informed her that, after what had recently taken in the instance of Mill, they were determined to attend and see justice done to their preachers, and that, if the prosecution went forward, there would be a greater convocation at St. Andrews than had been seen at any trial in Scotland for a long period. Dreading the consequences of a concourse of people in a place adjacent to counties in which the Protestants were numerous, the queen wrote to the archbishop to prorogue the trial. She, at the same time, summoned a convention of the nobility, to be held at Edinburgh on the seventh of March, to advise upon the most proper measures for settling the religious differences which had so long agitated the nation. And the primate, at her request, called a provincial council of the clergy to meet in the same place on the first of March.
When our Savior was condemned to be crucified, it was observed, that, “on the same day, Pilate and Herod were made friends together, for before they were at enmity between themselves.” The determination which was at this time formed to crush the Protestant interest in Scotland, seems to have brought about the reconciliation of more than the queen regent and the primate. A rivalship had long subsisted between those who occupied the two Scottish archbishoprics; the bishops of Glasgow insisting on the independence of their see, and boasting of the priority of its erection, while the bishops of St. Andrews claimed an authoritative primacy over all the clergy in the kingdom, as belonging to that see from the time of its foundation. Hamilton, in the mandate issued for assembling this council, had asserted his primacy in very formal terms, founding upon it, as well as upon the authority with which he was invested as papal legate, his right to convocate the clergy. Beatoun, Archbishop of Glasgow, seems to have resented this claim of superiority and declined for some time to countenance the council by his presence, or to cite his suffragans and the clergy of his diocese to attend. This dissension, which might have proved highly injurious to the Roman Church at this critical period, was got accommodated, and Beatoun, with the western clergy, at length joined the council.
In the meantime, the Protestants, having assembled at Edinburgh, appointed commissioners to lay their representations before the convention of the nobility, and the council of the clergy. The commissioners gave in to the latter certain preliminary articles of reformation, in which they craved, that the religious service should be performed in the vulgar tongue; that such as were unfit for the pastoral office should be removed from their benefices; that, in time coming, bishops should be admitted with the assent of the barons of the diocese, and parish priests with the assent of the parishioners; and that measures would be adopted for preventing immoral and ignorant persons from being employed in ecclesiastical functions. But there was another paper laid before the council, which, it is probable, gave more uneasiness than the representation of the Protestants. This was a remonstrance by certain persons attached to Roman Catholic faith, “craving redress of several grievances complained of in the ecclesiastical administration of Scotland.” It consisted of thirteen articles, in which, among other points of reformation, they required that the exacting of corpse-presents and Easter offerings should be abolished; that, for the more effectual instruction of those who partake of the sacraments, “there should be an godlie and faithful declaration set forth in Inglis toung, to be first shewin to the pepil at all times,” when any of the sacraments are administered; and that the common prayers and litanies should also be read in the vulgar language. At the same time, they desired that none should be permitted to speak irreverently of the mass, make innovations upon the ceremonies of the Church, or administer divine ordinances without authority from the bishops.
The council were not disposed to agree to the proposals of the Protestant or the Popish reformers. After making certain partial regulations relating to some of the grievances complained of by the latter, and renewing the canons of former councils respecting the lives of the clergy and public instruction, they refused to allow any part of the public service to be performed in the vulgar language; they ratified, in the strongest terms, all the popish doctrines which were controverted by the Protestants; and they ordained that strict inquisition should be made after such as absented themselves from the celebration of mass,’ and that excommunication should be fulminated against those who administered or received the sacrament after the Protestant forms, and against parents and sponsors who had presented children for baptism to the reformed preachers, and did not bring them to the priests to be re-baptized.
The council were emboldened to take these decisive steps in consequence of a secret treaty which they had concluded with the regent, and in which they had stipulated to raise a large sum of money to enable her to suppress the reformers. This arrangement could not be long concealed from the Protestant deputies, who, perceiving that they were mocked by the clergy, and abandoned by the court, broke off the fruitless negotiations in which they had been engaged, and left Edinburgh. They were no sooner gone than a proclamation was made at the market cross, by order of the regent, prohibiting any person from preaching or administering the sacraments without authority from the bishops, and commanding all the subjects to prepare to celebrate the ensuing feast of Easter, according to the rites of the Catholic Church. Understanding that her proclamation was disregarded, she determined on taking decisive steps to enforce obedience, by bringing the preachers to justice. Accordingly, Paul Methven, John Christison, William Harlaw, and John Willock were summoned to stand trial before the justiciary court at Stirling on the tenth of May, for usurping the ministerial office, for administering, without the consent of their ordinaries, the sacrament of the altar in a manner different from that of the Catholic Church, during three several days of the late feast of Easter, in the burghs and boundaries of Dundee, Montrose, and various other places in the sheriffdoms of Forfar and Kincardine, and for convening the subjects in these places, preaching to them, seducing them to their erroneous doctrines, and exciting seditions and tumults. As the preachers were resolved to make their appearance, George Lovell, burgess of Dundee, became surety for Methven, John Erskine of Dun for Christison, Patrick Murray of Tibbermuir for Harlaw, and Robert Campbell of Kinyeancleugh for Willock.
To prevent matters from coming to extremity, the Earl of Glencairn and Sir Hugh Campbell of London, sheriff of Ayr, waited on the queen and remonstrated against these proceedings, but she told them haughtily that, “in spite of them, all their preachers should be banished from Scotland.” They reminded her of the promises she had repeatedly made to protect them, upon which she unblushingly replied that “it became not subjects to burden their princes with promises, farther than they pleased to keep them.” Surprised, but not intimidated, at this language, Glencairn and London told her that if she violated the engagements which she had come under to her subjects, they would consider themselves as absolved from their allegiance to her. After they had remonstrated with her very openly, and pointed out the dangerous consequences that might result from adopting such a line of conduct, she began to speak a milder tone, and promised to suspend the trial of the preachers, and take the whole affair into serious consideration. But receiving intelligence soon after that peace was concluded between France and Spain, by a treaty in which these two powers had agreed to unite their endeavors for the extirpation of heresy, and being irritated by the introduction of the reformed worship into the town of Perth, she ordered the process against the preachers to go on, and summoned them peremptorily to stand their trial at Stirling on the appointed day.
The state of our Reformer’s mind, upon receiving this information, will appear from the following letter, hastily written by him on the day after he landed in Scotland.
“The perpetual comfort of the Holy Ghost for salutation. These few lines are to signify unto you, dear sister, that it hath pleased the merciful providence of my heavenly Father to conduct me to Edinburgh, where I arrived the 2d of May, uncertain as yet what God shall further work in this country, except that I see the battle shall be great. For Satan rageth even to the uttermost, and 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, when 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. Assist me, sister, with your prayers, that now I shrink not, when the battle approacheth. Other things I have to communicate with you, but travail after travail doth so occupy me, that no time is granted me to write. Advertise my brother, Mr. Goodman, of my estate, as, in my other letter sent unto you from Dieppe, I willed you. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ rest with you. From Edinburgh, in haste, the 3d of May.”
His arrival in Scotland was not long concealed from the clergy. On the morning after he landed at Leith, one came to the monastery of the Greyfriars, where the provincial council was still sitting, and informed them that John Knox was come from France, and had slept last night in Edinburgh. The clergy were panic-struck with the intelligence, and, foreboding the ruin of all the plans which they had formed with so much care, they dismissed the council in great haste and confusion. A messenger was instantly dispatched by them with the information to the queen regent, who was at Glasgow, and within a few days Knox was proclaimed an outlaw and a rebel, in virtue of the sentence formerly pronounced against him by the clergy.
Although his own cause was prejudged, and he knew that he was liable to be apprehended as a condemned heretic, he did not hesitate a moment in resolving to present himself voluntarily at Stirling, to assist his brethren in their defense, and share their danger. Having remained only a single day at Edinburgh, he hurried to Dundee, where he found the principal Protestants in Angus and Mearns already assembled, and determined to attend their ministers to the place of trial, and avow their adherence to the doctrines for which they were accused. The providential arrival of such an able champion of the cause, at this crisis, must have been very encouraging to the assembly, and the liberty of accompanying them, which he requested, was readily granted.
Lest the unexpected approach of such a multitude, though unarmed, should alarm or offend the regent, the assembled Protestants agreed to stop at Perth, and sent Erskine of Dun before them to Stirling, to acquaint her with the peaceable object and manner of their coming. Apprehensive that their presence would disconcert her measures, the regent had again recourse to dissimulation. She persuaded Erskine to write to his brethren to desist from their intended journey, and authorized him to promise in her name, that she would put a stop to the trial. The Protestants testified their pacific intentions by a cheerful compliance with this request, and the greater part, confiding in the royal promise, returned to their homes. But when the day of trial came, the summons was called by the orders of the queen, the preachers were outlawed for not appearing, and all persons were prohibited, under the pain of rebellion, from harboring or assisting them. At the same time the gentlemen who had given security for their appearance, were fined.
Escaping from Stirling, Erskine brought to Perth the intelligence of this disgraceful transaction, which could not fail to incense the Protestants. It happened that, on the same day on which the news came, Knox, who remained at Perth, preached a sermon in which he exposed the idolatry of the mass and of image worship. The audience had quietly dismissed, and a few idle persons only loitered in the Church, when an imprudent priest, wishing to try the disposition of the people, or to show his contempt of the doctrine which had just been delivered, uncovered a rich altar-piece, decorated with images, and prepared to celebrate mass. A boy, having uttered some expressions of disapprobation, was struck by the priest. He retaliated by throwing a stone at the aggressor, which, falling on the altar, broke one of the images. This operated as a signal upon the people present, who had sympathized with the boy, and, in the course of a few minutes, the altar, images, and the ornaments of the Church were torn down, and trampled under foot. The noise soon collected a mob, which, finding no employment in the Church, flew, by a sudden and irresistible impulse, upon the monasteries; and although the magistrates of the town and the preachers assembled as soon as they heard of the riot, yet neither the persuasions of the one, nor the authority of the other, could restrain the fury of the people, until houses of the grey and black friars, with the costly edifice of the Carthusian monks, were laid in ruins. None of the gentlemen or sober part of the congregation were concerned in the unpremeditated tumult; it was wholly confined to the lowest of the inhabitants, or, as Knox designs them, “the rascal multitude.”
The demolition of the monasteries having been represented as its first fruits of our reformer’s labors on this occasion, it was necessary to give this minute account of the causes which produced that event. Whatever his sentiments were as to the destruction of the instruments and monuments of idolatry, he did not wish the work to be accomplished in an irregular manner; he was sensible that tumultuary proceedings, especially in present circumstances, were prejudicial to the cause of the reformers, and, instead of instigating, he exerted himself in putting a stop to the ravages of the mob. If this disorderly conduct must be traced to a remote cause we can impute it only to the wanton and dishonorable perfidy of the queen regent.
In fact, nothing could be more favorable to the designs of the regent than this riot. By her recent conduct, she had forfeited the confidence of the Protestants, and even exposed herself in the eyes of the sober and moderate of her own party. This occurrence afforded her an opportunity of turning the public indignation from herself, and directing it against the Protestants. She did not fail to improve it with her usual address. She magnified the accidental tumult into a dangerous and designed rebellion. Having called the nobility to Stirling, she, in her interviews with them, insisted upon such topics as were best calculated to persuade the parties into which they were divided. In conversing with the Catholics, she dwelt upon the sacrilegious overthrow of those venerable structures which their ancestors had dedicated to the service of God. To the Protestants who had not joined their brethren at Perth, she complained of the destruction of the Charter-house, which was a royal foundation, and, protesting that she had no intention of offering violence to their consciences, promised to protect them, provided they would assist her in punishing those who had been guilty of this violation of public order. Having inflamed the minds of both parties, she collected an army from the adjacent counties, and advanced to Perth, threatening to lay waste the town with fire and sword, and to inflict the most exemplary vengeance on all who had been instrumental in producing the riot.
The Protestants of the north were not insensible to their danger, and did all in their power to avert the storm which threatened them. They wrote to the queen regent, to the commander of the French troops, to the Popish nobles, and to those of their own persuasion; they solemnly disclaimed all rebellious intentions; they protested their readiness to yield due obedience to the government; they entreated all to refrain from offering violence to peaceable subjects, who sought only the liberty of their consciences, and the reformation of religion. But, finding all their endeavors fruitless, they resolved not to suffer themselves and their brethren to be massacred, and prepared for a defense of the town against an illegal and furious assault. And so prompt and vigorous were they in the measures which they adopted, that the regent, when she approached, deeming it imprudent to attack them, proposed overtures of accommodation, to which they readily acceded.
While the two armies lay before Perth, and negotiations were going on between them, our Reformer obtained an interview with the prior of St. Andrews and the young Earl of Argyle, who adhered to the regent. He reminded them of the solemn engagements which they had contracted, and charged them with violating these by abetting measures which tended to suppress the reformed religion, and enslave their native country. The noblemen replied that they had been induced, by the representations of the regent and the clergy, to believe that their brethren in intended to swerve from their former loyalty, and, although they were now convinced that this charge was unfounded, they were anxious to fulfil the promise which they had made to the queen, by bringing the present difference to an amicable termination; but, if she should violate the proposed treaty, they would withdraw their countenance from her, and openly take part with their brethren, to whom they considered themselves as bound by the most sacred ties. The regent was not long in affording them an opportunity of verifying their promise. No sooner had she taken possession of Perth, and perceived that the forces of the Protestants were disbanded, than she began to disregard the conditions to which she had agreed. Argyle and the prior remonstrated against the infractions of a treaty which they had concluded at her earnest request, but were answered in such an unsatisfactory manner that they deserted her court, and could never afterwards be persuaded to place any confidence in her promises.
From the time that the leading Protestants discovered the hostile intentions of the regent, they had used great industry to ascertain the numbers of their friends, to establish means of correspondence among them, and to have them united by the strictest bonds. For this purpose, copies of their religious covenant were committed to persons who procured subscriptions to it in the different districts where they resided. From the designation which they gave themselves in this covenant, or from the union which subsisted among them, they began at this time to be distinguished by the name of The Congregation. The nobles who had joined the association were the Earls of Argyle, Glencairn, Monteith, and Rothes; Lords Ochiltree, Boyd, Ruthven, and the prior of St. Andrews. The Earl Marischal and Lord Erskine, with some others who were friendly to the reformed religion, still supported the regent, or remained neutral. A large proportion of the lesser barons belonged to the Congregation, particularly those of Mearns, Angus, Strathearn, Monteith, Fyfe, Cunningham, Kyle, Carrick, and Galloway.
In the beginning of June, the lords of the Congregation held a consultation on the measures which they should adopt for their own security, and for the advancement of the Reformation. They had repeatedly applied to the clergy to rectify the abuses which prevailed in the Church, and to release them from those unjust and oppressive laws by which their consciences had long been enslaved, but their petitions had been treated with neglect and disdain. “To abandon usurped power, to renounce lucrative error, are sacrifices which the virtue of individuals has, on some occasions, offered to truth; but from any society of men no such effort can be expected. The corruptions of a society, recommended by common utility, and justified by universal practice, are viewed by its members without shame or horror; and reformation never proceeds from themselves, but is always forced upon them by some foreign hand.” Convinced of this, the Protestant leaders had next addressed themselves to the regent, and requested her to employ her authority to bring about a reformation, which could not be much longer deferred without interrupting the peace of the kingdom. As long as they had any reason to think that she was disposed to listen to their petitions, they had waited with exemplary patience and restrained the ardor of such of their friends as were inclined, without farther delay, to use the right which nature and Christianity gave them; but the regent had disappointed their expectations, and from being a professed friend was become a declared enemy; they could no longer place the smallest dependence on her promises; and they were satisfied that she had formed a systematic plan for suppressing the Reformation and enforcing the existing ecclesiastical laws in all their rigor. It behooved them now either to submit to have their chains riveted, or by a bold and vigorous effort to shake them off altogether. They determined upon the latter. The scandalous lives of the established clergy, their total neglect of the religious instruction of the people, and the profanation of Christian worship by gross idolatry were the most glaring abuses. The lords of the Congregation resolved to take immediate steps for removing these by abolishing the Popish service and setting up the reformed worship in all those places to which their authority or influence extended, and in which the greater part of inhabitants were friendly to the design. This step is justified part by the feudal ideas respecting the jurisdiction of the nobility, which at that time prevailed in Scotland; the urgent and extreme necessity of the case, however, forms its best vindication. A great part of the nation loudly demanded such a reformation, and, had not regular measures been adopted for its introduction, the popular indignation would have effected the work in a more exceptionable way.
St. Andrews was the place fixed on for commencing these operations. With this view, the Earl of Argyle and Lord Stewart, who was prior of the abbey of St. Andrews, made an appointment with Knox to meet them on a certain in that city. Traveling along the east coast of Fife, he preached at Anstruther and Crail, and, on the ninth of June, joined them at St. Andrews. The archbishop, apprised of his design to preach in his cathedral, assembled an armed force and sent information to him that if he appeared in the pulpit, he would give orders to the soldiers to fire upon him. The noblemen, having met to consult what ought to be done, agreed Knox should desist from preaching at that time, and strongly urged upon him the reasons of their opinion. Their retinue was very slender; they had not yet ascertained the disposition of the inhabitants of the town; the queen regent lay at a small distance with an army; and his appearance in the pulpit might lead to the sacrifice of his own life, and the lives of those who were determined to defend him from violence.
There are occasions on which it is a proof of superior wisdom to disregard the ordinary dictates of prudence, on which, to face danger is to avoid it, to flee from it is to invite it. Had the reformers, after announcing their intentions, suffered themselves be intimidated by the bravading attitude and language of the archbishop, their cause would, at the very outset, have received a blow from which it would not easily have recovered. This was prevented by the firmness and intrepidity of Knox. Fired with the recollection of the part which he had formerly acted on that spot, and with the near prospect of realizing the sanguine hopes which he had so long cherished in his breast, he resisted all the importunities of his friends. He could take God to witness, he said, that he never preached in contempt of any man, nor with the design of hurting an earthly creature, but to delay to preach next day (unless forcibly hindered) he could not in conscience agree. In that town, and in that church, had God first raised him to the dignity of a preacher, and from it he had been “reft” by French tyranny, at the instigation of the Scots bishops. The length of his imprisonment, and the tortures which he had endured, he would not at present recite, but one thing he could not conceal, that in the hearing of many yet alive, he had expressed his confident hope of again preaching in St. Andrews. Now, therefore, when Providence, beyond all men’s expectation, had brought him to that place, he besought them not to hinder him. “As for the fear of danger that may come to me,” continued he, “let no man be solicitous; for my life is in the custody of Him whose glory I seek. I desire the hand nor weapon of no man to defend me. I only crave audience, which, if it be denied hereunto me at this time, I must seek where I may have it.”
This intrepid reply silenced all remonstrance, and next day, Knox appeared in the pulpit, and preached to a numerous assembly, including many of the clergy, without experiencing the slightest interruption. He discoursed on the subject of our Savior’s ejecting the profane traffickers from the temple of Jerusalem, from which he took occasion to expose the enormous corruptions which had been introduced into the Church under the Papacy, and to point out what was incumbent upon Christians, in their different spheres, for removing them. On the three following days he preached in the same place, and such was the influence of his doctrine, that the provost, bailies, and inhabitants, harmoniously agreed to set up the reformed worship in the town; the Church was stripped of images and pictures, and the monasteries were pulled down. This happened on the fourteenth of June, 1559.
Understanding that the lords of St. Andrews were accompanied by a small retinue, the queen regent, who lay at Falkland, attempted to surprise them. But the Protestants in Angus, having received information of the critical situation of their brethren, came to their assistance with such celerity and in such numbers that they were able to face the royal army at Cupar-moor, and the regent, afraid to risk a battle, consented to a truce, by which she engaged to remove her French troops from Fife, and to send commissioners to St. Andrews for the purpose of settling all differences between her and the Congregation. The troops were removed, but no commissioners appeared, and the lords of the Congregation, being apprised that the queen intended to fortify the passage of the Forth at Stirling, and to cut off their communication with the Protestants in the south, proceeded to Perth, and, having expelled the garrison from that town, by a rapid march seized upon Stirling, and, advancing, took possession of the capital of the kingdom, the regent, as they approached, retiring with her forces to Dunbar.
The example of St. Andrews, in abolishing the Popish worship, was quickly followed in other parts of the kingdom, and, in the course of a few weeks, at Crail, at Cupar, at Lindores, at Stirling, at Linlithgow, at Edinburgh, and at Glasgow, the houses of the monks were overthrown, and all the instruments of idolatry destroyed.
These proceedings were celebrated in the singular lays, which were at that time circulated among the reformers.
His cardinalles hes cause to mourne, His bishops are borne a backe; His abbots gat an uncouth turne, When shavellinges went to sacke With burges wifes they led their lives, And fare better than wee. Hay trix, trim goe trix, under the greene-wod tree.
His Carmelites and Jacobinis, His Dominikes had great adoe; His Cordeliers and Augustines, Sanct Francis’s ordour to; The sillie friers, mony yeiris With babbling bleirit our ee. Hay trix, &c.
Had not your self begun the weiris, Your stepillis had been standand yit; It was the flattering of your friers That ever gart sanct Francis flit; Ye grew sa superstitious In wickednesse, It gart us grow malicious Contrair your messe.
Scarcely anything in the progress of the Scottish Reformation has been more frequently or more loudly condemned than the demolition of those edifices upon which superstition had lavished the ornaments of the chisel and the pencil. To the Catholics, who anathematized all who were engaged in this work of inexpiable sacrilege, and represented it as involving the complete overthrow of religion, have succeeded another race of writers, who, although they do not in general make high pretensions to devotion, have not scrupled at times to borrow the language of their predecessors, and have bewailed the wreck of these precious monuments in as bitter strains as ever idolater did the loss of his gods. These are the warm admirers of Gothic architecture and other relics of ancient art, some of whom, if we may judge from their language, would welcome back the reign of superstition with all its ignorance and bigotry, if they could recover the objects of their adoration. Writers of this stamp depict the ravages and devastation which marked the progress of the Reformation, in colors as dark as ever were employed by the historian in describing the overthrow of ancient learning, by the irruption of the barbarous Huns and Vandals. Our Reformer cannot be mentioned by them but with symptoms of horror, and in terms of detestation, as a barbarian, a savage, and a ringleader of mobs, for overthrowing whatever was venerable in antiquity or sacred in religion. It is unnecessary to produce instances.
Expectes eadem a summo minimoque poeta.
To remind such persons of the divine mandate to destroy all monuments of idolatry in the land of Canaan would be altogether insufferable, and might provoke, from some of them, a profane attack upon the authority from which it proceeded. To plead the example of the early Christians, in demolishing the temples and statues dedicated to pagan polytheism would only awaken the keen regrets that are felt for the irreparable loss. It would be still worse to refer to the apocalyptic predictions, which some have been so fanatical as to think were fulfilled in the miserable spoliation of that “great city,” which, under all its revolutions, has so eminently proved the nurse of the arts, and given encouragement to painters, statuaries, and sculptors, to “harpers, and musicians, and pipers, and trumpeters, and craftsmen of whatsoever craft,” who to this day have not forgotten their obligations to it, nor ceased to bewail its destruction. In any apology which I make for the reformers, I would alleviate instead of aggravating the distress which is felt for the loss of such valuable memorials of antiquity. It has been observed by high authority that there certain commodities which derive their principal value from their extreme rarity, and which, if found in great quantities, should cease to be sought after or prized. A nobleman of great literary reputation has, indeed, questioned the justness of this observation, so far as respects precious stones and metals. But I flatter myself that the noble author and the learned critic, however much they may differ as to public wealth, will agree that the observation is perfectly just, as applied to those commodities which constitute the wealth and engage the researches of the antiquary. With him rarity is always an essential requisite and primary emendation. His property, like that of the possessor of the famous Sybilline books, does not decrease in value by the reduction of its quantity, but after the greater part has been destroyed, becomes still more precious. If the matter be viewed in this light, antiquarians have no reason to complain of the ravages of reformers, who have left them such valuable remains, and placed them in that very state which awakens in their minds the most lively sentiments of the sublime and beautiful, by reducing them to ruins.
But, to speak seriously, I would not be thought so great an enemy to any of the fine arts, as to rejoice at the wanton destruction of their models, ancient or modern, or to vindicate those who, from ignorance and fanatical rage, may have a excited the mob to such violence. But I am satisfied that the charges brought against our reformers on this head are highly exaggerated, and in some instances altogether groundless. The demolition of the monasteries is, in fact, the only thing of which they can be fairly accused. Cathedral and parochial churches, and, in several places, the chapels attached to monasteries, were appropriated to the Protestant worship; and, in the orders issued for stripping them of images, idolatrous pictures, and superstitious furniture, particular directions were given to avoid whatever might injure the buildings, or deface any of their ordinary decorations. It is true that some churches suffered from popular violence during the ferment of the Reformation, and that others were dilapidated, in consequence of their most valuable materials being sold to defray the expenses of the war in which the Protestants were involved; but the former will not be matter of surprise to those who have attended to the conduct of other nations in similar circumstances, and the latter will be censured by such persons only as are incapable of entering into the feelings of a people who were engaged in a struggle for their lives, their liberties, and their religion. Of all the charges thrown out against our reformers, the most ridiculous is that in their zeal against Popery, they waged war against literature by destroying the valuable books and records which had been deposited in the monasteries. The state of learning among the monks at the era of the Reformation was wretched, and their libraries poor; the only persons who patronized or cultivated literature in Scotland were Protestants, and so far from sweeping away any literary monuments which remained, the reformers were disposed to search for them among the rubbish, and to preserve them with the utmost care. In this respect we have no reason to deprecate a comparison between our Reformation and that of England, notwithstanding the flattering accounts which have been given of the orderly and temperate manner in which the latter was conducted under the superintending control of the supreme powers.
But even although the irregularities committed in the progress of that work had been greater than have been represented, I must still reprobate the spirit which disposes persons to dwell with unceasing lamentation upon losses which, in the view of an enlightened and liberal mind, will sink and disappear in the magnitude of the incalculable good which rose from the wreck of the revolution. What! do we celebrate with public rejoicings victories over the enemies of our country, in the gaining of which the lives of thousands of our fellow-creatures have been sacrificed? and shall solemn masses and sad dirges, accompanied with direful execrations, be everlastingly sung, for the mangled members of statues, torn pictures, and ruined towers? Shall those who, by a display of the horrors of war, would persuade their countrymen to repent of a contest which had been distinguished with uncommon feats of valor, and crowned with the most brilliant success, be accused of a desire to tarnish the national glory? Shall the topics on which they insist, however forcible in themselves—the effusion bf human blood, the sacking of cities, the devastation of fertile provinces, the ruin of arts and manufactures, and the intolerable burdens entailed even upon the victors themselves—be represented as mere commonplace topics, employed as a cover to disloyalty? And do not those who, at the distance of nearly three centuries, continue to wail evils of a far inferior kind which attended the Reformation, justly expose themselves to suspicion of indifference and disaffection to a cause, in comparison with which all contests between rival kingdoms and sovereigns dwindle into insignificance? I will go further, and say that I look upon the destruction of these monuments as a piece of good policy, which contributed materially to the overthrow of the Roman Catholic religion and the prevention of its establishment. It was chiefly by the magnificence of its temples and the splendid apparatus of its worship that the Romish Church fascinated the senses and imaginations of the people. A more successful method of attacking it, therefore, could not be adopted than the demolition of what contributed much to uphold and extend its influence. There is more wisdom than many seem to perceive in the maxim which Knox is said to have inculcated “that the best way to keep the rooks from returning was to pull down their nests.” In demolishing or rendering uninhabitable all those buildings which had served for the maintenance of the ancient superstition (except what were requisite for the Protestant worship), the reformers only acted upon the principles of a prudent general, who dismantles or razes the fortifications which he is unable to keep, which might afterwards be seized and employed against him by the enemy. Had they been allowed to remain in their former splendor, the popish clergy would not have ceased to indulge hopes, and to make efforts to be restored to them; occasions would have been taken to tamper with the credulous, to inflame the minds of the superstitious, and the reformers might soon have found reason to repent their ill-judged forbearance.
When we had quelled The strength of Aztlan, we should have thrown down Her altars, cast her idols to the fire. The priests combined to save their craft, And soon the rumour ran of evil signs And tokens; in the temple had been heard Wailings and loud lament; the eternal fire Gave dismally a dim and doubtful flame; And from the censer, which at morn should steam Sweet odours to the sun, a fetid cloud Black and portentous rose.
Our Reformer was along with the forces of the Congregation when they faced the army of the regent in Cupar-moor; he accompanied them on their expedition to Perth, and in the end of June arrived with them at Edinburgh. On the same day, he preached in St. Giles’s, and next day in the Abbey Church. On the seventh of July, the inhabitants of the metropolis met in the Tolbooth and made choice of him as their minister. With this choice, which was approved of by his brethren, he judged it his duty to comply, and immediately began his labors in the city.
On their arrival at Edinburgh, the lords of the Congregation had sent deputies to Dunbar to assure the queen that they had no intention of throwing off their allegiance, and to induce her to yield to reasonable terms of accommodation. As a preliminary, she agreed to release their ministers from the sentence of outlawry, and allow them to preach to those who chose to hear them. Meanwhile, she was busily employed in endeavors to disunite her opponents. Having spun out the negotiations which they had opened with her, until she understood that the greater part of their forces had left them, she advanced suddenly with her army to Edinburgh. The Protestants took up a position on the east side of Craigingate, and resolved to defend the capital, though against superior forces; but Leith having opened its gates to her, and Lord Erskine, who commanded the castle, threatening to fire upon them, they were forced to conclude a treaty by which they agreed to leave Edinburgh. They stipulated, however, that the inhabitants should be left at liberty to use that form of worship which was most acceptable to them. Knox would have remained with his congregation after the regent took possession of the city, but the nobles, knowing the value of his services, and the danger to which his life would be exposed, insisted on his accompanying them. Willock, who was less obnoxious to the hatred of the court and clergy, was therefore substituted in his place, and the prudence and firmness which this preacher displayed in that difficult situation proved that he was not unworthy of the choice which had fallen on him. The regent was extremely anxious to have the Roman Catholic service re-established in the Church at St. Giles, and employed the Earl of Huntly to persuade the citizens to declare in favor of the measure; but neither the authority of the queen, nor the entreaties which Huntly employed, both in private and at a public meeting called with that view, could prevail with them to swerve from their profession of the reformed religion, or to relinquish the right which was secured to them by the late treaty. Although the French soldiers who had come to the regent’s assistance kept the city in alarm, and disturbed the Protestant service, Willock maintained his place, and in the month of August he administered the sacrament of the supper after the reformed manner in St. Giles’s Church. The celebration of the Popish worship was confined to the royal chapel and the church of Holyroodhouse, during the time that the capital was in the possession of the royal forces.
In the month of August, a singular phenomenon was seen in Abbey church. The Archbishop of St. Andrews appeared in the pulpit, and preached. If his grace did not acquit him with great ability on the occasion, he at least behaved with becoming modesty. After discoursing for a short time, he requested the audience to excuse the defects of his sermon, as he had not been accustomed to the employment, and told them that he had provided a very skilful preacher to succeed him, upon which he concluded, and gave way to Friar Black.
On retiring from Edinburgh, Knox undertook a tour of preaching through the kingdom. The wide field which was before him, the interesting situation in which he was placed, the dangers by which he was surrounded, and the hopes which he cherished increased the ardor of his zeal, and stimulated him to extraordinary exertions both of body and mind. Within less than two months, he traveled over a great part of Scotland. He visited Kelso, and Jedburgh, and Dumfries, and Ayr, and Stirling, and Perth, and Brechin, and Montrose, and Dundee, returned to St. Andrews. This itinerancy had great influence in diffusing the knowledge of the truth, and in strengthening Protestant interest. The attention of the nation was aroused; eyes were opened to the errors by which they had been deluded; and they panted for a continued and more copious supply of the word of life, which they had once been permitted to taste, and had felt so refreshing to their souls. I cannot better describe the emotions which this success excited in Knox’s breast, than by quoting from the familiar letters which he wrote at intervals snatched from his constant employment.
“Thus far hath God advanced the glory of his dear Son among us,” says he, in a letter written from St. Andrews, on the twenty-third of June, “O! that my heart could be thankful for the superexcellent benefit of my God. The long thirst of my wretched heart is satisfied in abundance that is above my expectation, for now forty days and more hath my God used my tongue, in my native country, to the manifestation of his glory. Whatsoever now shall follow as touching my own carcass, his holy name be praised. The thirst of the poor people, as well as of the nobility here is wondrous great, which putteth me in comfort, that Christ Jesus shall triumph here in the North and extreme parts of the earth for a space.” In another letter, dated the second of September, he says, “Time to me is so precious, that with great difficulty can I steal one hour in eight days, either to satisfy myself, or to gratify my friends. I have been in continual travel since the day of appointment; and, notwithstanding the fevers have vexed me, yet have I traveled through the most part of this realm, where (all praise to His Blessed Majesty!) men of all sorts and conditions embrace the truth. Enemies we have many, by reason of the Frenchmen who lately arrived, of whom our Papists hope golden hills. As we be not able to resist, we do nothing but go about Jericho, blowing with trumpets, as God giveth strength, hoping victory by his power alone.”
Soon after his arrival in Scotland, he wrote for his wife and family, whom he had left behind him at Geneva. On the thirteenth of June, Mrs. Knox and her mother were at Paris, and applied to Sir Nicholas Throkmorton, the English ambassador, for a safe-conduct to pass into England. Throkmorton, who by this time had penetrated the counsels of the French court, not only granted this request, but wrote a letter to Elizabeth, in which he urged the propriety of overlooking the offense which Knox had given by his publication against female government, and of conciliating him by the kind treatment of his wife; seeing he was in great credit with the lords of the Congregation, had been the principal instrument in producing the late change in Scotland, and was capable of doing essential service to her majesty. Accordingly, Mrs. Knox came into England, and, being conveyed to the borders by the direction of the court, reached her husband in safety on the twentieth of September. Mrs. Bowes, after remaining a short time in her native country, followed her daughter into Scotland, where she remained until her death.
The arrival of his family was the more gratifying to our reformer that they were accompanied by Christopher Goodman, his late colleague at Geneva. He had repeatedly written in the most pressing manner, for him to come to his assistance, and expressed much uneasiness at the delay of his arrival. Goodman became minister of Ayr, and was afterwards translated to St. Andrews. The settlement of Protestant ministers began to take place at an earlier period than is mentioned in our common histories. Previous to September 1559, eight towns were provided with pastors, and others remained unprovided owing to the scarcity of preachers.
In the meantime, it became daily more apparent that the lords of the Congregation would be unable, without foreign aid, to maintain the struggle in which they were involved. Had the contest been merely between them and the domestic party of the regent, they would soon have brought it to a successful termination, but they could not withstand the veteran troops which France had already sent to her assistance, and was preparing to send in still more formidable numbers. As far back as the middle of June, our Reformer had renewed his exertions for obtaining assistance from England and persuaded William Kircaldy of Grange, first to write, and afterwards to pay a visit, to Sir Henry Percy, who held a public situation on the English marches. Percy immediately transmitted his representations to London, and an answer was returned from Secretary Cecil, encouraging the correspondence.
Knox himself wrote to Cecil, requesting permission to visit England, and enclosed a letter to Queen Elizabeth, in which he attempted to apologize for his rude attack upon female government. When a man has been “overtaken in a fault,” it is his glory to confess it; but those who have been so unfortunate as to incur the resentment of princes, must, if they expect to appease them, condescend to very ample and humiliating apologies. Luther involved himself more than once by attempting this task, and had not the luster of his talents protected him, his reputation must have suffered materially from his ill success. He was prevailed on to write submissive apologies to Leo X and Henry VIII for the freedom with which he had treated them in his writings, but, in both instances, his apologies were rejected with contempt, and he found himself under the necessity of retracting his retractations. Knox was in no danger of committing himself in this way. He was less violent in his temper than the German reformer, but he was also less flexible and accommodating. There was nothing at which he was more awkward than apologies, condescensions, and civilities; and on the present occasion he was placed in a very embarrassing predicament, as his judgment would not permit him to retract the sentiment which had given offense to the English queen. In his letter to Elizabeth, he expresses deep distress at having incurred her displeasure, and warm attachment to her government, but the grounds on which he advises her to found her title to the crown, and indeed the whole strain in which the letter is written, are such as must have aggravated, instead of extenuating, his offense in the opinion of that high-minded princess. But, although his apology had been more ample and humble than it was, it is not probable that he would have succeeded better with Elizabeth than Luther did with her father. Christopher Goodman, after his return to England, was obliged, at two several periods, to subscribe a recantation of the opinion which he had given against the lawfulness of female government, nor could all his condescensions procure for him the favor of his sovereign. In fact, Elizabeth was all along extremely tender on the subject of her right to the throne; she never failed to resent every attack that was made upon this, from whatever quarter it came; and, although several historians have amused their readers with accounts of her ambition to be thought more beautiful and accomplished than the Queen of Scots, I am persuaded that she was always more jealous of Mary as a competitor for the crown, than as a rival in personal charms.
It does not, however, appear, that Elizabeth ever saw Knox’s letter, and I have little doubt that it was suppressed by the sagacious secretary. Cecil was himself friendly to the measure of assisting the Scottish Congregation, and exerted all his influence to bring over the queen and her council to his opinion. Accordingly, Knox received a message, desiring him to meet Sir Henry Percy at Alnwick, on the second of August, upon business which required the utmost secrecy and dispatch; and himself came down to Stamford to hold an interview with him. The confusion produced by the advance of the regent’s army upon Edinburgh retarded his journey, but no sooner was this settled, than Knox sailed from Pittenweem to Holy Island. Finding that Percy was recalled from the borders, he applied Sir James Croft, the Governor of Berwick. Croft, who was unapprised of the design on which he came, dissuaded him from proceeding farther into England, and undertook to dispatch his communications to London, and to procure a speedy return. Alexander Whitlaw of Greenrig, who had been banished from Scotland, having come to London on his way from France, was entrusted by the English court with their answer to the letters of the Congregation. Arriving at Berwick, he delivered the dispatches to Knox, who hastened with them to Stirling, where a meeting of the Protestant lords was to be held. He prudently returned by sea to Fife, for the queen regent had come to the knowledge of his journey to England, and Whitlaw, in traveling through East Lothian, being mistaken for Knox, was hotly pursued, and made his escape with great difficulty. The irresolution or the caution of Elizabeth’s cabinet had led them to express themselves in such general and unsatisfactory terms that the lords of the Congregation, when the letters were laid before them, were both disappointed and displeased, and it was with some difficulty that our Reformer obtained permission from them to write again to London in his own name. The representation which he gave of the urgency of the case, and the danger of farther hesitation or delay, produced a speedy reply, desiring them to send a confidential messenger to Berwick, who would receive a sum of money to assist them in prosecuting the war. About the same time, Sir Ralph Sadler was sent down to Berwick, to act as an accredited but secret agent, and the correspondence between the court of London and the lords of the Congregation continued afterwards to be carried on through him and Sir James Croft until the English auxiliary army entered Scotland.
If we reflect upon the connection which the religious and civil liberties of the nation had with the contest in which the Protestants were engaged, and upon our Reformer’s zeal in that cause, we shall not be greatly surprised to find him at this time acting in the character of a politician. Extraordinary cases cannot be measured by ordinary rules. In a great emergency, when all that is valuable and dear to a people is at stake, it becomes the duty of every individual to step forward and exert all his talents for the public good. Learning was at this time rare among the nobility, and though there were men of distinguished abilities among the Protestant leaders, few of them had been accustomed to transact public business. Accordingly, the management of the correspondence with England was for a time devolved chiefly on Knox and Balnaves. But our Reformer submitted to the task merely from a sense of duty end regard to the common cause, and when the younger Maitland acceded to their party, he expressed the greatest satisfaction at the prospect of being relieved from the burden.
It was not without reason that he longed for this deliverance. He now felt that it was as difficult to preserve integrity and Christian simplicity amidst the crooked wiles of political intrigue, as he had formerly found it to pursue truth through the perplexing mazes of scholastic sophistry. In performing a task foreign to his habits and repugnant to his disposition, he met with a good deal of vexation, and several unpleasant rubs. These were owing, partly to his own impetuosity, and partly to the grudge entertained against him by Elizabeth, but chiefly to the particular line of policy which the English cabinet had resolved to pursue. They were convinced of the danger of allowing the Scottish Protestants to be suppressed, but they wished to confine themselves to pecuniary aid, believing that such assistance the lords of the Congregation world be able expel the French and bring the contest to a successful issue, while, by the secrecy with which it could be conveyed, an open breach between France and England would be prevented. This plan, which originated in the personal disinclination of Elizabeth to the Scottish war rather than in the judgment of her wisest counsellors, protracted the contest, and gave occasion to some angry disputes between the English agents and those of the Congregation. The former were continually urging the associated lords to attack the forces of the regent, before she received fresh succors from France, and blaming their slow operations; they complained of the want of secrecy in the correspondence with England, and even insinuated that the money, intended for the common cause, was partially applied to private purposes. The latter were irritated by this insinuation, and urged the necessity of military as well as pecuniary assistance.
In a letter to Sir James Croft, Knox represented the great importance of their being speedily assisted with troops, without which they would be in much hazard of miscarrying in an attack upon the fortifications of Leith. The court of England, he said, ought not to hesitate at offending France, of whose hostile intentions against them they had the most satisfactory evidence. But “if ye list to craft with thame,” continued he, “the sending of a thousand or mo men to us can breake no league nor point of peace contracted betwixt you and France, for it is free for your subjects to serve in warr anie prince or nation for their wages, and if ye fear that such excuses will not prevail, ye may declare thame rebelles to your realme when ye shall be assured that thei be in our companye.” No doubt such things have been often done, and such “political casuistry” (as Keith not improperly styles it) is not unknown at courts. But it must be confessed that the measure recommended by Knox (the morality of which must stand on the same grounds with the assistance which the English were at that time affording) was too glaring to be concealed by the excuses which he suggested. Croft laid hold of this opportunity to check the impetuosity of his correspondent, and wrote him that he wondered how he, “being a wise man,” would require from them such aid as they could not give “without breach of treaty, and dishonour,” and that “the world was not so blind but that it could soon espy” the “devices” by which he proposed “to colour their doings.” Knox, in his reply, apologized for his “unreasonable request,’ but, at the same time reminded Croft of the common practice of courts in such matters, and the conduct of the French court towards the English in a recent instance. He was not ignorant, he said, of the inconveniences which might attend an open declaration in their favor, but feared that they would have cause to “repent the drift of time, when the remedy would not be so easy.”
This is the only instance in which I have found our Reformer recommending dissimulation, which was very foreign to the openness of his natural temper, and the blunt and rigid honesty that marked his general conduct. His own opinion was that the English court ought from the first to have done what they found themselves obliged to do at last—avow their resolution to support the Congregation. Keith praises Croft’s “just reprimand on Mr. Knox’s double fac’d proposition,” and Cecil says that his “audacite was well tamed.” We must not, however, imagine, that these statesmen had any scruple of conscience, or nice feeling of honor on this point. For, on the very day on which Croft reprimanded Knox, he wrote to Cecil that he thought the queen ought openly to take part with the Congregation. And in the same letter in which Cecil speaks of Knox’s audacity, he advises Croft to adopt in substance the wry measure which our Reformer had recommended, by sending five or six officers, who should “steal from thence with appearance of displeasure for lack of interteynment,” and in a subsequent letter, he gives directions to send three or four, fit for being captains, who should give out that they left Berwick, “as men desyrous to be exercised in the warres, rather than to lye idely in that towne.”
Notwithstanding the prejudice which existed in the English court against our Reformer, on account of his “audacity” in attacking female prerogative, they were too well acquainted with his integrity and influence to decline his services. Cecil kept up a correspondence with him, and in the directions sent from London for the management of the subsidy, it was expressly provided that he should be one of the council for examining the receipts and payments, to see that it was applied to “the common action,” and not to any private use.
In the meantime, his zeal and activity, in the cause of the congregation, exposed him to the deadly resentment of the queen regent and the Papists. A reward was publicly offered to anyone who should apprehend or kill him, and not a few, actuated by hatred or avarice, lay in wait to seize his person. But this did not deter him from appearing in public, nor from traveling through the country in the discharge of his duty. His exertions at this period were incredibly great. By day he was employed in preaching, by night in writing letters on public business. He was the soul of the Congregation, was always found at the post of danger, and by his presence, his public discourses, and private advices, animated the whole body and defeated the schemes employed to corrupt or disunite them.
The Congregation had lately received a considerable increase of strength by the accession of the former regent, the Duke of Chastelherault. His eldest son, the Earl of Arran, who commanded the Scots guard in France, had embraced the principles of the Reformation. Understanding that the French court, which was entirely under the direction of the princes of Lorrain, intended to throw him into prison, he secretly retired to Geneva, from which he was conveyed to London by the assistance of Elizabeth’s ministers. In the month of August he came to his father at Hamilton. The representations of his son, joined with those of the English cabinet, and with his own jealousy of the designs of the queen regent, easily gained over the vacillating duke, who met with the lords of the Congregation, and subscribed their bond of confederation.
Our Reformer was now called to take a share in a very delicate and important measure. When they first had recourse to arms in their own defense, the lords of the Congregation had no intention of making any alteration in the government, or of assuming the exercise of the supreme authority. Even after they had adopted a more regular and permanent system of resistance to the measures of the queen regent, they continued to recognize the station which she held, presented petitions to her, and listened respectfully to the proposals which she made for removing the grounds of variance. But finding that she was fully bent upon the execution of her plan for subverting the national liberties, and that her official situation gave her great advantages in carrying on this design, they began to deliberate upon the propriety of adopting a different line of conduct. Their sovereigns were minors, in a foreign country, and under the management of persons to whose influence the evils of which they complained were principally to be ascribed. The queen dowager held the regency by the authority of parliament; might she not be deprived of it by the same authority? In the present state of the country, it was impossible for a free regular parliament to meet, but the majority of the nation declared their dissatisfaction with her administration, and was it not competent for them to provide for the public safety, which was exposed to such imminent danger? These were the questions which formed the topic of frequent conversation at this time.
After much deliberation, a numerous assembly, consisting nobles, barons, and representatives of boroughs, met at Edinburgh, on the twenty-first of October 1559, to bring this important point to a solemn issue. To this assembly Knox and Willock were called, and the question being stated to them, they were required to deliver their opinions as to the lawfulness of the proposed measure. Willock, who then officiated as minister of Edinburgh, being first asked, declared it to be his judgment, founded on reason and Scripture, that the power of rulers was limited; that they might be deprived of it upon valid grounds; that the queen regent having, by fortifying Leith, and introducing foreign troops into the country, evinced a fixed determination to oppress and enslave the kingdom, might justly be divested of her authority, by the nobles and barons, as native counselors of the realm, whose petitions and remonstrance she had repeatedly rejected. Knox assented to the opinion delivered by his brother, and added that the assembly might, with safe consciences, act upon it, provided they attended to the three following things: First, that they did not suffer the conduct of the queen regent to alienate their affections from due allegiance to their sovereigns, Francis and Mary; second, that they were not actuated in the measure by private hatred or envy of the queen dowager, but by regard to the safety of the commonwealth; and, third, that any sentence which they might at this time pronounce, should not preclude her re-admission to office, if she afterwards discovered sorrow for her conduct and a disposition to submit to the advice of the estates of the nation. After this, the whole assembly, having severally delivered their opinions, did, by a solemn deed, suspend the queen dowager from her authority as regent of the kingdom, until the meeting of a free parliament; and, at the same time, elected a council for the management of public affairs during this interval. When the council had occasion to treat of matters connected with religion, four of the ministers were appointed to assist in their deliberations. These were Knox, Willock, Goodman, and Alexander Gordon, Bishop of Galloway, who had embraced the Reformation.
It has been alleged by some writers that the question respecting the suspension of the queen regent was altogether incompetent for ministers of the gospel to determine, and that Knox and Willock, by the advice which they gave on this occasion, exposed themselves unnecessarily to odium. But it is not easy to see how they could have been excused in refusing to deliver their opinion, when required by those who had submitted to their ministry, upon a measure which involved a case of conscience, as well as a question of law and political right. The advice which was actually given and followed is a matter of greater consequence, than the quarter from which it came. As this rests upon principles very different from those which produced resistance to princes, and limitation on their authority, under feudal governments, and as our Reformer has been the object of much animadversion for inculcating these principles, I shall embrace the present opportunity to offer a few remarks on this interesting subject.
Among the various causes which affected the general state of society and government in Europe during the middle ages, the influence of religion cannot be overlooked. Debased by ignorance and fettered by superstition, the minds of men were prepared to acquiesce without examination in the claims of authority, and tamely to submit to every yoke. In whatever light we view Popery, the genius of that singular system of religion will be found to be adverse to liberty. The court of Rome, while it aimed directly at the establishment of a spiritual despotism in the hands of ecclesiastics, contributed to rivet the chains of political servitude upon the people. In return for the support which princes yielded to its arrogant claims, it was content to invest them with an absolute authority over the bodies of their subjects. By the priestly unction, performed at the coronation of kings in the name of the holy see, a sacred character was understood to be imparted, which raised them to a superiority over their nobility which they did not possess according to feudal ideas, rendered their persons inviolable, and their office divine. Although the sovereign pontiffs claimed, and on different occasions exercised, power of dethroning kings, and of absolving subjects from their allegiance; yet any attempt of this kind, when it proceeded from the people themselves, was denounced as a crime deserving severest punishment in this world, and damnation in the next. Hence sprung the doctrine of the divine right of kings to rule independently of their people, and of passive obedience and non-resistance to their will, under the sanction of which they were encouraged to sport with the lives and happiness of their subjects, to indulge in the most tyrannical and wanton acts of oppression without the dread of resistance, or of being called to account by any power on earth. Even in countries where the people were understood to enjoy certain political privileges, transmitted from remote ages, or wrested from their princes on some favorable occasions, these principles were generally prevalent; and, availing himself of them, it was easy for an ambitious and powerful monarch to violate the rights of the people with impunity, and upon a constitution, the forms of which were friendly to popular liberty, to establish an administration completely arbitrary and despotic.
The contest between papal sovereignty and the authority of general councils, which was carried on during the fifteenth century, elicited some of the essential principles of liberty, which afterwards applied to political government. The revival of learning, by unfolding the principles of legislation and modes of government in the republics of ancient Greece and Rome, gradually led to more liberal notions on this subject. But these were confined to a few, and had no influence upon the general state of society. The spirit infused by philosophy and literature is too feeble and contracted to produce a radical reform of established abuses; and learned men, proud of their own superior illumination, and satisfied with the liberty of indulging their speculations, have generally been too indifferent or too timid to attempt the improvement of the multitude. It is to the religious spirit excited during the sixteenth century, which spread rapidly through Europe, and diffused itself among all classes of men, that we are chiefly indebted for the propagation of the genuine principles of rational liberty and the consequent amelioration of government.
Civil and ecclesiastical tyranny were so closely combined that it was impossible for men to emancipate themselves from the latter without throwing off the former, and from arguments which established their religious rights, the transition was easy, and almost unavoidable, to disquisitions about their civil privileges. In those kingdoms in which the rulers threw off the Roman yoke and introduced the Reformation by their authority, the influence was more imperceptible and slow; and in some of them, as in England, the power taken from the ecclesiastical was thrown into the regal scale, which proved so far prejudicial to popular liberty. But where the Reformation was embraced by the great body of a nation, while the ruling powers continued to oppose it, the effect was visible and immediate. The interested and obstinate support which rulers gave to the old system of error and ecclesiastical tyranny, and their cruel persecution of all who favored the new opinions, drove their subjects to inquire into the just limits of authority and obedience. Their judgments once informed as to the rights to which they were entitled, and their consciences satisfied respecting the means which they might employ to acquire them, the immense importance of the immediate object in view, their emancipation from religious bondage, and the salvation of themselves and their posterity, impelled them to make the attempt with an enthusiasm and perseverance which the mere love of civil liberty could not have inspired.
In effecting that memorable revolution, which terminated in favor of religious and political liberty in so many nations of Europe, the public teachers of the Protestant doctrine had a principal influence. By their instructions and exhortations, they roused the people to consider their rights and exert their power; they stimulated timid and wary politicians; they encouraged and animated princes, nobles, and confederated states, with their armies, against the most formidable opposition, and under the most overwhelming difficulties, untiltheir exertions were ultimately crowned with success. These facts are now admitted, and this honor has at last, through the force of truth, been conceded to the religious leaders of the Protestant Reformation, by philosophical writers, who had too long branded them as ignorant and fanatical.
Our Reformer had caught a large portion of the spirit of civil liberty. We have already adverted to the circumstance in his education which directed his attention, at an early period, to some of its principles. His subsequent studies introduced him to an acquaintance with the maxims and modes of government in the free states of antiquity, and it is reasonable to suppose that his intercourse with the republics of Switzerland and Geneva had some influence on his political creed. Having formed his sentiments independently of the prejudices arising from established laws, long usage, and commonly received opinions, his zeal and intrepidity prompted him to avow and propagate them, when others, less sanguine and resolute, would have been restrained by fear, or by despair of success. Extensive observation had convinced him of the glaring perversion of government in the European kingdoms, but his principles led him to desire their reform, not their subversion. His admiration of the polity of republics, ancient or modern, was not so great or indiscriminate as to prevent him from separating the essential principles of equity and freedom which they contained from others which were incompatible with monarchy. He was perfectly sensible of a necessity of regular government to the maintenance of justice and order, and aware of the danger of setting men loose from its control. And he uniformly inculcated a conscientious obedience to the lawful commands of rulers, and respect to their persons as well as to their authority, even when they were charged with various mismanagements, so long as they did not break through all the restraints of law and justice, and cease to perform great and fundamental duties of their office.
But he held that rulers, supreme as well as subordinate, were invested with authority for the public good; that obedience was not due to them in anything contrary to the divine law, natural or revealed; that, in every free and well-constituted government, the of the land was superior to the will of the prince; that inferior magistrates and subjects might restrain the supreme magistrate from particular illegal acts, without throwing off their allegiance, or being guilty of rebellion; that no class of men have an original, inherent, and indefeasible right to rule over a people, independently of their will and consent; that every nation is entitled to provide and require that they shall be ruled by laws are agreeable to the divine law, and calculated to promote its welfare; that there is a mutual compact, tacit and implied, formal and explicit, between rulers and their subjects; and if the former shall flagrantly violate this, employ that power for destruction of the commonwealth which was committed to them for its preservation and benefit, or, in one word, if they become habitual tyrants and notorious oppressors, that the people are absolved from allegiance, and have a right to resist them, formally to depose them from their place, and to elect others in their room.
The real power of the Scottish kings was, indeed, always limited, and there are in our history, previous to the era of the Reformation, many instances of resistance to their authority. But, though these were pleaded as precedents on this occasion, it must be confessed that we cannot trace them to the principles of genuine liberty. They were the effects of sudden resentment on account of some extraordinary act of mal-administration, or of the ambition of some powerful baron, or of the jealousy with which the feudal aristocracy watched over the privileges of their own order. The people who followed the standards of their chiefs had little interest in the struggle and derived no benefit from the limitations which were imposed upon the sovereign. But, at this time, more just and enlarged sentiments were diffused through the nation, and the idea of a commonwealth, including the mass of the people, as well as the privileged orders, began to be entertained. Our Reformer, whose notions of hereditary right, whether in kings or nobles, were not exalted, studied to repress the insolence and oppression of the nobility. He reminded them of the original equality of men, and the ends for which some were raised above others; and he taught the people that they had rights to preserve, as well as duties to perform. With respect to female government, he never moved any question among his countrymen, nor attempted to gain proselytes to his opinion.
Such, in substance, were the political sentiments which were inculcated by our Reformer, and which were more than once acted upon in Scotland during his lifetime. That in an age when the principles of political liberty were only beginning to be understood, such sentiments should have been regarded with a suspicious eye by some of the learned who had not yet thrown off common prejudices, and that they should have exposed those who maintained them to a charge of treason from despotical rulers and their numerous satellites, is far from being matter of wonder. But it must excite both surprise and indignation to find writers in the present enlightened age, and under the sunshine of British liberty (if our sun is not fast going down), expressing their abhorrence of these principles, and exhausting upon their authors all the invective and virulence of the former anti-monarchomachi, and advocates of passive obedience. They are essentially the principles upon which the free constitution of Britain rests; and the most obnoxious of them were reduced to practice at the memorable era of the Revolution, when the necessity of employing them was not more urgent or unquestionable, than it was at the suspension of the Queen Regent of Scotland, and the subsequent deposition of her daughter.
I have said essentially; for I would not be understood as meaning to say that every proposition advanced by Knox on this subject is expressed in the most guarded and unexceptionable manner, or that all the cases in which he was led to vindicate forcible resistance to rulers, were such as rendered it necessary, and as may be pleaded as precedents in modern times. The political doctrines maintained at that period received a tincture from the spirit of the age, and were accommodated to a state of society and government comparatively rude and unsettled. The checks which have since been introduced into the constitution, and the influence which public opinion, expressed by the organ of a free press, has upon the conduct of rulers, are sufficient, in ordinary cases, to restrain dangerous encroachments, or to afford the means of correcting them in a peaceable way, and have thus happily superseded the necessity of having recourse to those desperate but decisive remedies which were formerly applied by an oppressed and indignant people. But if ever the time come when these principles shall be generally abjured or forgotten, the extinction of the boasted liberty of Britain will not be far off.
There are objections against our Reformer’s political principles which demand consideration, from the authority to which they appeal, and the influence which they may have on pious minds. “The doctrine of resistance to civil rulers,” it is alleged, “is repugnant to the express directions of the New Testament, which repeatedly enjoin Christians to be subject to the powers that be, and denounce damnation against such as disobey or resist them on any pretext whatever. With the literal and strict import of these precepts the example of the primitive Christians agreed; for, even after they became very numerous, so as to be capable of opposing the government under which they lived, they never attempted to shake off the authority of the Roman emperors, or to employ force to protect themselves from the tyranny and persecutions to which they were exposed. Besides, granting that it is lawful for subjects to vindicate their civil rights and privileges by resisting arbitrary rulers, to have recourse to forcible measures for promoting Christianity is diametrically opposite to the genius of that religion which was propagated at first, and is still to be defended, not by arms and violence, but by teaching and suffering.”
These objections are more specious than solid. The directions and precepts on this subject, which are contained in the New Testament, must not be stretched beyond their evident scope and proper import. They do not give greater power to magistrates than they formerly possessed, nor do they supersede any of the rights or privileges to which subjects were entitled by the common law of nature, or by the particular statutes of any country. The New Testament does not give directions to communities respecting the original formation or subsequent improvement of their civil constitutions, nor prescribe the course which ought to be pursued in certain extraordinary uses, when rulers abuse the power with which they are invested, and convert their legitimate authority into an engine of despotism and oppression. It supposes magistrates to be acting within the proper line of their office, and discharging its duties to the advantage of the society over which they are placed. And it teaches Christians that the liberty which Christ purchased, and to the enjoyment of which they are called by the gospel, does not exempt them from subjection and obedience to civil authority, which is a divine ordinance for the good of mankind; that they are bound to obey existing rulers, although they should be of a different religion from themselves; and that Christianity, so far from setting them free from obligations to this or any other relative duty, strengthens these obligations, and requires them to discharge their duties for conscience’ sake, with fidelity, cheerfulness, patience, long-suffering, and singleness of heart. Viewed in this light, nothing can be more reasonable in its own nature, or more honorable to the gospel, than the directions which it gives on this subject; and we must perceive a peculiar propriety in the frequency and earnestness with which they are urged, when we consider the danger in which the primitive Christians were of supposing that they were liberated from the ordinary restraints of the rest of mankind. But if we shall go beyond this, and assert that the Scriptures have prohibited resistance to rulers in every case, and that the great body of a nation consisting of Christians, in attempting to curb the fury of their rulers, or to deprive them of the power which they have grossly abused, are guilty of that crime against which the apostle denounces damnation, we represent the beneficent religion of Jesus as sanctioning despotism, and entailing all the evils of political bondage upon mankind; and we tread in the steps of those enemies to Christianity, who, under the color of paying a compliment to its pacific, submissive, tolerant, and self-denying maxims, have represented it as calculated to produce a passive, servile spirit, and to extinguish courage, patriotism, the love of civil liberty, the desire of self-preservation, and every kind of disposition to repel injuries, or to obtain the redress of the most intolerable grievances.
The example of the primitive Christians is not binding upon others any farther than it is conformable to the Scriptures; and the circumstances in which they were placed were totally different from those of the Protestants in Scotland, and in other countries, at the time of the Reformation. The fathers often indulge in oratorical exaggerations when speaking of the numbers of the Christians; nor is there any satisfactory evidence that they ever approached near to a majority of the Roman empire, during the time that they were exposed to persecution.
“If thou mayest be made free, use it rather,” says the Apostle—a maxim which is applicable, by just analogy, to political as well as domestic freedom. The Christian religion natively tends to cherish and diffuse a spirit favorable to civil liberty, and this, in its turn, has the most happy influence upon Christianity, which never flourished extensively, and for a long period in any country where despotism prevailed. It must therefore be the duty of every Christian to exert himself for the acquisition and defense of this invaluable blessing. Christianity ought not to be propagated by force of arms, but the external liberty of professing it may be vindicated in that way both against foreign invaders and against domestic tyrants. If the free exercise of their religion, or their right to remove religious abuses, enter into the grounds of the struggle which a nation maintains against oppressive rulers, the cause becomes of vastly more importance, its justice is more unquestionable, and it is still more worthy, not only of their prayers and petitions, but of their blood and treasure, than if it had been maintained solely for the purpose of securing their fortunes, or of acquiring some mere worldly privilege. And to those whose minds are not warped by prejudice, and who do not labor under a confusion of ideas on the subject, it must surely appear paradoxical to assert that, while God has granted to subjects a right to take the sword of just defense for securing objects of temporary and inferior nature, he has prohibited them from using this remedy, and left them at the mercy of every lawless despot, with respect to a concern the most important of all, whether it be viewed as relating to his own honor, or to the welfare of mankind.
To those who judge of the propriety of any measure from the success with which it is accompanied, will be disposed to condemn the suspension of the queen regent. Soon after this step was taken, the affairs of the Congregation began to wear a gloomy aspect. The messenger whom they sent to Berwick to receive a remittance from the English court was intercepted on his return, and rifled of the treasure; their soldiers mutinied for want of pay; they were repulsed in a premature assault upon the fortifications of Leith, and worsted in a skirmish with the French troops; the secret emissaries of the regent were too successful among them; their numbers daily decreased; and the remainder, disunited, dispirited, and dismayed, came to the resolution of abandoning Edinburgh on the evening of the fifth of November, and retreated with precipitation and disgrace to Stirling.
Amidst the universal dejection produced by these disasters, the spirit of Knox remained unsubdued. On the day after their arrival at Stirling, he mounted the pulpit, and delivered a discourse, which had a wonderful effect in rekindling the zeal and courage of the Congregation. Their faces (he said) were confounded, their enemies triumphed, their hearts had quaked for fear, and still remained oppressed with sorrow and shame. Why had God thus dejected them? The situation of their affairs required plain language, and he would use it. In the present distressed state of their minds, they were in danger of attributing these misfortunes to a wrong cause, and of imagining that they had offended in taking the sword of self-defense into their hands, just as the tribes of Israel did, when twice discomfited in the war which they undertook, by divine direction, against their brethren the Benjamites. Having divided the Congregation into two classes, those who had been embarked in this cause from the beginning, and those who had lately acceded to it, he proceeded to point out what he considered as blamable in the conduct of each. The former (he said) had laid aside that humility and dependence upon Divine Providence which they had discovered when their number was small; and, since they were joined by the Hamiltons, had become elated, secure, and self-confident. “But wherein had my lord duke and his friends offended? I am uncertain if my lord’s grace has unfeignedly repented of his assistance to these murderers, unjustly pursuing us. Yea, I am uncertain if he has repented of that innocent blood of Christ’s blessed martyrs, which was shed in his default. But let it be that so he has done (as I hear that he has confessed his fault before the lords and brethren of the Congregation); yet I am assured that neither he, nor yet his friends, did feel before this time the anguish and grief of heart which we felt, when in their blind fury they pursued us. And therefore God hath justly permitted both them and us to fall in this fearful confusion at once—us, for that we put our trust and confidence in man, and them, because they should feel in their own hearts how bitter was the cup which they made others drink before them.” After exhorting all to amendment of life, to prayers, and works of charity, he concluded with an animating address: “God,” he said, “often suffered the wicked to triumph for a while, and exposed his chosen congregation to mockery, dangers, and apparent destruction, in order to abase their self-confidence, and induce them to look to himself for deliverance and victory. If they turned unfeignedly to the Eternal, he no more doubted that their present distress would be converted into joy, and followed by success, than he doubted that Israel was finally victorious over the Benjamites, after being twice repulsed with ignominy. The cause in which they were engaged would prevail in Scotland, in spite of all opposition. It was the eternal truth of the eternal God which they maintained; it might be oppressed for a time, but would ultimately triumph.”
The audience, who had entered the church in deep despondency, left it with renovated courage. In the afternoon the council met, and, after prayer by the Reformer, unanimously agreed to dispatch William Maitland of Lethington to London, to supplicate more effectual assistance from Elizabeth. In the meantime, as they were unable to keep the field, it was agreed that they should divide, and that the one half of the council should remain at Glasgow and the other at St. Andrews. Knox was appointed to attend the latter in the double capacity of preacher and secretary. The French having in the beginning of the year 1560, penetrated into Fife, he encouraged that band, which, under the Earl of Arran and the Prior of St. Andrews, bravely resisted their progress, until the appearance of the English fleet compelled the enemy to retreat with precipitation.
The disaster which obliged the Protestant army to raise the siege of Leith, and to evacuate Edinburgh, turned out eventually to the advantage of their cause. It induced the English court to abandon the line of cautious policy which they had hitherto pursued. Maitland’s embassy to London was successful, and, on the twenty-seventh of February, 1560, Elizabeth concluded a mutual treaty with the lords of the Congregation, by which she engaged to send an army into Scotland, to assist them in expelling the French forces. Being informed of this treaty, the queen regent resolved to disperse the troops which were collected at Glasgow under the Duke of Chastelherault, before the English army could arrive. On the seventh of March, the French, amounting to two thousand foot and three hundred horse, issued Leith, and proceeding by Linlithgow and Kirkintulloch, suddenly appeared before Glasgow. Having reduced the episcopal castle, they were preparing to advance to Hamilton, when they received a message from the queen regent, informing them that the English army had begun its march into Scotland, upon which they relinquished their design, and returned to Leith, carrying along with them a number of prisoners, and a considerable booty. In the beginning of April, the English army joined the forces of the Congregation. The French shut themselves up within the fortifications of Leith, which was invested both by sea and land; and the queen regent, who had for some time been in a declining state of health, was received by Lord Erskine into the castle of Edinburgh where she died during the siege of Leith.
These proceedings were viewed with deep interest by the court of France. Henry II, having died in July 1559, was succeeded by Francis II, the husband of the young Queen of Scots, in consequence of which, the administration of affairs fell entirely into the hands of the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal of Lorrain. They employed every art of political intrigue to prevent the Queen of England from giving assistance to the Scottish Congregation, and to prevail on her to desert them after she had undertaken their protection. Nor were they altogether unsuccessful in their attempts. Elizabeth, partly from extreme caution and parsimony, and partly from the influence of some of her counselors, was induced to listen to their plausible proposals; she delayed the march of her army into Scotland, and after the siege of Leith was commenced, suspended the military operations, and engaged in premature negotiations for peace. This last step justly alarmed the Congregation, and while they neglected no means to persuade the English court to perform the stipulations of the late treaty, they prepared for the worst by renewing their covenant among themselves.
Elizabeth at last listened to the advice of her ablest ministers and resolved to prosecute the war with vigor. No sooner did she evince this determination than the French court yielded to all her demands. The armament which they had lately fitted out at great expense for Scotland, had been dispersed by a storm; the Frith of Forth was blocked up by an English fleet; and a confederacy had been formed among a number of the nobility in France to remove the princes of Lorrain from the administration of public affairs, and to free the Protestants in that kingdom from the severe persecutions to which they had hitherto been exposed. Influenced by these circumstances, the French cabinet sent plenipotentiaries to Edinburgh, who concluded a treaty with England, by which the Scottish differences were also adjusted. By this treaty it was provided, that the French troops should immediately be removed from Scotland; that an amnesty should be granted to all who had been engaged in the late resistance to the queen regent; that the principal grievances of which they complained in the civil administration should be redressed; that a free parliament should be held to settle the other affairs of the kingdom; and that, during the absence of their sovereigns, the government should be administered by a council, to be chosen partly by Francis and Mary, and partly by the estates of the nation. The treaty was signed on the seventh of July. On the sixteenth, the French army embarked at Leith, and the English troops began their march into their own country; and on the nineteenth, the Congregation assembled in St. Giles’s Church, to return solemn thanks to God for the restoration of peace, and the success which had crowned their exertions. In this manner terminated the civil war which attended the Scottish Reformation, after it had continued for twelve months, with less rancor and bloodshed than have distinguished any other contest of a similar kind.
During the continuance of the war, the Protestant preachers had been assiduous in disseminating knowledge through all parts of the kingdom, and their success was equal to their diligence. They had received a considerable accession to their number from the ranks of their opponents. While we venerate those men who enlisted under the banners of truth when friends were few, and who boldly took the field in her defense when the victory was yet dubious and distant, and while we cheerfully award to them the highest meed of honor, let us not load with heavy censure, or even deprive of all praise, such as, less enlightened, or less courageous, were tardy in appearing for the cause. He who “knew what is in man,” has taught us not to reject such disciples, in the dawn of light, and in perilous times. Nicodemus, who at first “came to Jesus by night” and Joseph of Arimathea, who was his disciple, “but sectretly for fear of the Jews,” afterwards avouched their faith in him, and obtained the honor of embalming and interring his body, when all his early followers had forsaken him and fled. Several of the Scottish clergy, who were favorable to Protestant doctrine, had contrived to retain their places in the Church by concealing their sentiments, or by securing the favor of some powerful patron. Of this class were John Winram, subprior of the abbey of St. Andrews, Adam Herriot, a friar of that abbey, John Spottiswood, parson of Calder; and John Carswell, rector of Kilmartine. In the gradual diffusion of knowledge through the nation, the minds of many who were attending the schools had been also enlightened, among whom were David Lindsay, Andrew Hay, Robert Montgomery, Patrick Adamson, and Robert and Archibald Hamilton. During the year 1559, these men came forward as auxiliaries to the first Protestant preachers, and so successful were they in instructing the people that the French would have found it extremely difficult to support the ancient superstition, though they had proved victorious in the military contest.
On the other hand, the exertions of the Popish clergy had been feeble in the extreme. Too corrupt to think of reforming their manners, too illiterate to be capable of defending their errors, they placed their forlorn hope on the success of the French arms, and looked forward to the issue of the war as involving the establishment or the ruin of their religion. The Bishop of Amiens, who came to Scotland in the double capacity of ambassador from the French court and papal legate, was accompanied by three doctors of the Sorbonne, who gave out that they would confound the reformed ministers, and bring back the people whom they had misled to the bosom of the Church, by the force of argument and persuasion. Lesley boasts of the success which attended their exertions, but there is good reason for thinking that these foreign divines confined themselves to the easier task of instructing the Scottish clergy to perform the religious service with greater solemnity, and to purify the churches, in a canonical manner, from the pollution which they had contracted by the profane worship of heretics. One effort, however, was made by the Popish clergy to support their sinking cause, which, if it had succeeded, would have done more to retrieve their reputation than all the arguments of the Sorbonnists; and, as this was the last attempt of the kind that ever was made in Scotland, the reader may be gratified with the following account of it.
In the neighborhood of Musselburgh was a chapel dedicated to our Lady of Loretto, the sanctity of which was increased from its having been the favorite abode of the celebrated Thomas the Hermit. To this sacred place the inhabitants of Scotland, from time immemorial, had repaired in pilgrimage, to present their offerings to the Virgin, and to experience the efficacy of her prayers, and the healing virtue of the wonder-working Hermit of Lareit. In the course of the year 1559, public notice was given by the friars that they intended to put the truth of their religion to the proof, by performing a miracle at this chapel upon a young man who had been born blind. On the day appointed, a vast concourse of spectators assembled from all parts of Lothian. The young man, accompanied with a solemn procession of monks, was conducted to a scaffold on the outside of the chapel, and was exhibited to the multitude. Many of them knew him to be the blind man they had often seen begging, and whose necessities they relieved; all looked on him, and pronounced him stone blind.
The friars then proceeded to their devotions with great fervency, invoking the assistance of the Virgin, at whose shrine they stood, and that of all the saints whom they honored; and after some time spent in prayers and religious ceremonies, the man opened his eyes, to the astonishment of the spectators. Having returned thanks to the friars and their saintly patrons for this wonderful cure, he was allowed to go down the scaffold to gratify the curiosity of the people, and to receive their alms.
It happened that there was among the crowd a gentleman of Fife, Robert Colville of Cleish, who, from his romantic bravery, was usually called Squire Meldrum, in allusion to a person of that name who had been celebrated by Sir David Lindsay. He was of Protestant principles, but his wife was a Roman Catholic, and, being pregnant at this time, had sent a servant with a present to the chapel of Loretto, to procure the assistance of the Virgin in her labor. The squire was too gallant to hurt his lady’s feelings by prohibiting the present being sent off, but he resolved to prevent the superstitious offering, and with that view had come to Musselburgh. He witnessed the miracle of curing the blind man with the distrust natural to a Protestant, and determined, if possible, to detect the imposition before he left the place. Wherefore, having sought out the young man from the crowd, he put a piece of money into his hand, and persuaded him to accompany him to his lodgings in Edinburgh. Taking him into a private room, and locking the door, he told him plainly that he was convinced he had engaged in a wicked conspiracy with the friars to impose on the credulity of the people, and at last drew from him the secret of the story. When a boy, he had been employed to tend the cattle belonging to the nuns of Sciennes in the vicinity of Edinburgh, and had attracted their attention by a peculiar faculty which he had of turning up the white of his eyes, and of keeping them in this position, so as to appear quite blind. Certain friars in the city, having come to the knowledge of this fact, conceived the design of making it subservient to their purposes, and having prevailed on the sisters of Sciennes to part with the poor boy, lodged him in one of their cells. By daily practice he became an adept in the art of counterfeiting blindness; and after he had remained so long in concealment as not to be recognized by his former acquaintance, he was sent forth to beg as a blind pauper, the friars having previously bound him, by a solemn vow, not to reveal the secret. To confirm his narrative, he “played his pavie” before the squire, by “flypping up the lid of his eyes, and casting up the white,” so as to appear as blind as he did on the scaffold at Loretto. The gentleman laid before him the iniquity of his conduct, and told him that he must next day repeat the whole story publicly at the cross of Edinburgh; and, as this would expose him to the vengeance of the friars, he engaged to become his protector, and to retain him as a servant in his house. The young man complied with his directions, and Cleish, with his drawn sword in his hand, having stood by him till he had finished his confession, placed him on the same horse with himself, and carried him off to Fife. The detection of this imposture was quickly published through the country, and covered the friars with confusion. My author does not say whether it cured Lady Cleish of her superstition, but I shall afterwards have occasion to notice its influence in opening the eyes of one who became a distinguished promoter of the Reformation.
The treaty which put an end to the civil war in Scotland made no particular settlement respecting the religious differences, but it was on that very account the more fatal to Popery. The Protestants were left in the possession of authority, and they were now by far the most powerful party in the nation, both as to rank and numbers. With the exception of those which had been occupied by the queen regent and her foreign auxiliaries, the Roman Catholic worship was almost universally deserted throughout the kingdom, and no provision was made in the treaty for its restoration. The firm hold which it once had on the opinions and affections of the people was completely loosened; it was supported by force alone, and the moment that the French troops embarked, that fabric which had stood for ages in Scotland fell to the ground. Its feeble and dismayed priests ceased of their own accord from the celebration of its rites, and the reformed service was peaceably set up, wherever ministers could be found to perform it. The parliament, when it entered upon the consideration of the state of religion, as one of the points undecided by the commissioners, which had been left to them, had little else to do but to sanction what the nation had previously done, by legally abolishing the Popish, and establishing the Protestant religion.
When the circumstances in which they were assembled, and the affairs on which they were called to deliberate, are taken into consideration, this must be regarded as the most important meeting of the estates of the kingdom that had ever been held Scotland. It engrossed the attention of the nation, and the eyes of Europe were fixed on its proceedings. The parliament met the tenth of July, but, agreeably to the terms of the treaty, it was prorogued, without entering on business, until the first of August. Although a great concourse of people resorted to Edinburgh on that occasion, yet no tumult or disturbance of public peace occurred. Many of the lords spiritual and temporal, who were attached to Popery, absented themselves; but the chief patrons of the old religion, as the Archbishop of St. Andrews, and the Bishops of Dumblane and Dunkeld, countenanced the assembly by their presence, and were allowed to act with freedom as lords of parliament. There is one fact in its constitution and proceedings which strikingly illustrates the influence of the Reformation upon political liberty. In the reign of James I the lesser barons had been exempted from attendance on parliament, and permitted to elect representatives in their different shires. But a privilege which, in modern times, is so eagerly coveted, was then so little prized, that, except in a few instances, no representatives from the shires had appeared in parliament, and the lesser barons had almost forfeited their right by neglecting to exercise it. At this time, however, they assembled at Edinburgh, and agreed upon a petition to the parliament, claiming to be restored to their ancient privilege. The petition was granted, and, in consequence of this, about a hundred gentlemen took their seats.
The business of religion was introduced by a petition presented by a number of Protestants of different ranks, in which, after rehearsing their former endeavors to procure the removal of the corruptions which had affected the Church, they requested parliament to use the power which Providence had now put into their hands for effecting this great and urgent work. They craved three things in general—that the antichristian doctrine maintained in the Popish Church should be discarded; that means should be used to restore purity of worship, and primitive discipline; and that the ecclesiastical revenues, which had been engrossed by a corrupt and indolent hierarchy, should be applied to the support of a pious and active ministry, to the promotion of learning, and to the relief of the poor. They declared that they were ready to substantiate the justice of all their demands, and, in particular, to prove that those who arrogated to themselves the name of clergy were destitute of all right to be accounted ministers of religion; and that, from the tyranny which they had exercised and their vassalage to the court of Rome, they could not be safely tolerated, and far less entrusted with power, in a reformed commonwealth.
In answer to the first demand, the parliament required the reformed ministers to lay before them a summary of doctrine which they could prove to be consonant with the Scriptures, and which they desired to have established. The ministers were not unprepared for this task; and, in the course of four days, they presented a Confession of Faith, as the product of their joint labors, and an expression of their unanimous judgment. It agreed with the confessions which had been published by other reformed churches. Professing belief in the common articles of Christianity respecting the divine nature, the trinity, the creation of the world, the origin of evil, and the person of the Savior, which were retained by the Church of Rome, in opposition to the errors broached by ancient heretics, it condemned not only the idolatrous and superstitious tenets of that Church, but also its gross depravation of the doctrine of Scripture respecting the state of fallen man, and the method of his recovery. It declared, that by “original sin was the image af God defacit in man, and he and his posteritie of nature become enemies to God, slaifis to Sathan, and seruandis of sin”; that ” all our saluatioun springs fra the eternall and immutabill decree of God, wha of meir grace electit us in Christ Jesus, his Sone, before the foundatione of the warld was laid”; that it behooves us “to apprehend Christ Jesus, with his justice and satisfactioun, wha is the end and accomplischement of the law, by whome we are set at this libertie, that the curse and maledictioun of God fall not upon us”; that “as God the Father creatit us when we war not, and his Sone our Lord Jesus redemit us when we were enemies to him, sa alswa the Haly Gaist dois sanctifie and regenerat us, without alt respect of ony merite proceeding fra us, be it befoir, or be it efter our regeneration—to speik this ane thing yit in mair plaine wordis, as we willinglie spoyle ourselfis of all honour and gloir of our awin creatioun and redemptioun, sa do we alswa of our regeneratioun and sanctificatioun, for of our selfis we ar not sufficient to think ane gude thocht, bot he wha hes begun the work in us is onlie he that continewis us in the same, to the praise and glorie of his underservit grace”; and, in fine, it declared, that although good works proceed “not from our fre-wil, but the Spirit of the Lord Jesus,” and although those that boast of the merit of their own works “boist themselfis of that whilk is nocht,” yet “blasphemie it is to say, that Christ abydis in the hartis of sic as in whome thair is no spirite of sanctificatioun; and all wirkers of iniquitie have nouther trew faith, nouther ony portioun of the Spirite of the Lord Jesus, sa lang as obstinatlie they continew in thair wickitnes.”
The Confession was read first before the lords of Articles, afterwards before the whole parliament. The Protestant ministers attended in the house to defend it, if attacked, and to give satisfaction to the members respecting any point which might appear dubious. Those who had objections to it formally required to state them. And the farther consideration was adjourned to a subsequent day, that none might pretend that an undue advantage had been taken of him, or that a matter of such importance had been concluded precipitately. On the seventeenth of August, the Parliament resumed the subject, and, previous to the vote, the Confession was again read, article by article. The Earl of Athole, and Lords Somerville and Borthwick, were the only persons of the temporal estate who voted in the negative, assigning this as their reason: “We will beleve as our forefatheris belevit.” “The bischopis spak nothing.” After the vote establishing the Confession of Faith, the Earl Marischal rose, and declared that the silence of the clergy had confirmed him in his belief of the Protestant doctrine, and he protested that if any of the ecclesiastical estate should afterwards oppose the doctrine which had just been received, they should be entitled to no credit; seeing, after full knowledge of it, and ample time for deliberation, they had allowed it to pass without the smallest opposition or contradiction. On the twenty-fourth of August, the parliament abolished the papal jurisdiction, prohibited, under certain penalties, the celebration of mass, and rescinded all the laws formerly made in support of the Roman Catholic Church and against the reformed faith.
Thus did the reformed religion advance in Scotland, from small beginnings, and amidst great opposition, until it attained a parliamentary establishment. Besides the influence of Heaven secretly accompanying the labors of the preachers and confessors of the truth, the serious and inquisitive reader will trace the wise arrangements of Providence in that concatenation of events which contributed to its rise, preservation, and increase, by overruling the caprice, the ambition, the avarice, and the interested policy of princes and cabinets, many of whom had nothing less in view than to favor that cause which they were so instrumental in promoting.
The breach of Henry VIII of England with the Roman see awakened the attention of the inhabitants of the northern part of the island to a controversy which had formerly been carried on at too great a distance to interest them, and led not a few to desire a reformation more improved than the model which that monarch had held out to them. The premature death of James V of Scotland saved the Protestants from destruction. During the short period in which they received the countenance of civil authority, at the commencement of Arran’s administration, the seeds of the reformed doctrine were so widely spread, and took such deep root, as to be able to resist the violent measures which the regent, after his recantation, employed to extirpate them. Those who were driven from the country by persecution found an asylum in England under the decidedly Protestant government of Edward VI. After his death, the alliance of England with Spain, and of Scotland with France, the two great contending powers on the continent, prevented that concert between the two courts which might have proved fatal to the Protestant religion in Britain. While the cruelties of the English queen drove Protestant preachers into Scotland, the political schemes of the queen regent induced her to favor them and to connive at the propagation of their opinions. At the critical moment when the latter had accomplished her favorite designs and was preparing to crush the Reformation, Elizabeth ascended the throne of England, and was induced, by political no less than religious considerations, to support the Scottish reformers. The French court was no less bent on suppressing them, and, having lately concluded peace with Spain, was left at liberty to direct its undivided attention to the accomplishment of that object; but at this critical moment, those intestine dissensions, which continued so long to desolate France, broke out and forced its ministers to accede to that treaty which put an end to French influence and the papal religion Scotland.