John Knox was born in Scotland in 1513 and was a contemporary of John Calvin. At the time of Knox’ birth, Scotland was in turmoil. The seeds of reformation had taken root. But Scotland was still officially a Roman Catholic country. And this led to many bloody confrontations. As a young man, Knox was aligned with the reformers and when the French Catholics retaliated, he was made a galley slave on a French ship for eighteen months.
Knox would eventually return to Scotland and became the fiery leader who would galvanize Scotland’s church. He helped craft a Scottish confession of faith and contributed the liturgy to guide their worship – the Book of Common Order. Up to this point, the secular government appointed the church leaders. Knox worked intently to establish a new pattern where the church would be free from governmental control. He was the father of the Presbyterians.
Knox was a man of tremendous courage. Nowhere was this seen more clearly than in his interactions with Mary Queen of Scots. Mary had left Scotland at the age of five and had grown up in luxury in the French court. She was a devout Catholic and she was used to having her own way. When her husband died, she returned to her homeland. But she found herself in the especially difficult position of trying to rule what was now a largely Protestant country.
Knox’s interactions with Mary Queen of Scotts were legendary. And it seems that his courage and boldness bordered on cruel and unusual. Mary was the subject of many of his sermons at St. Giles. In response to Knox’s imprecatory prayers, Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have said: “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” Near the end of his life, Knox would acknowledge that he had been quite severe toward Mary. But he wanted it to be clear that he had no personal animosity toward her. He wanted only to speak the truth of God’s word. At his funeral, the Earl of Morton stood over Knox’s body and said, “Here lies a man who feared no man.”
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