Chapter One: The myth that Knox ushered in the Scottish Reformation
False claims regarding Knox as the Pioneer of Scotland’s Reformation
John Knox, alias John Sinclair, is generally seen as the main pillar of the Scottish Reformation and his works are often regarded amongst evangelicals as the purest source of its history. Thus, James Edward McGoldrick, starts his Preface to his Luther’s Scottish Connections, with the words:
‘There is no doubt whatever that the Protestant Reformation in Scotland received its principle direction from the indomitable John Knox, a rigorous and courageous adherent to the Reformed version of evangelical teaching as espoused in Geneva by John Calvin and his disciples.’
McGoldrick does mention a few ‘forerunners’ and ‘precursors’ of Knox but claims without any foundation whatsoever that they were ‘for the most part’ Lutherans.1 The real Reformation, he believes, came first with Knox. However, major pioneers of Scotland’s Reformation had commenced on substantial Reforms long before the Lutheran Confessions were compiled or Knox came on the scene. Indeed, Lutheran teaching never influenced Scotland’s churches to any great extent, though Melanchthon’s theology had an impact on the Scottish Presbyterians in the 17th century when, according to the Westminster Assembly’s minutes, written down by Byfield, they erroneously thought he was a Presbyterian. Even in the middle 1530s the average British Reformed libraries featured only one book by Luther but held six different works by Frenchman Francis Lambert and the same amount from the pen of Englishman John Frith. In all fairness, it must be said that though Foster claims ‘Lutheran literature’ was forbidden by Parliament in Scotland ‘as early as 1525’,2 the word ‘Lutheran’ was everywhere used as a synonym for ‘revolutionary’ or ‘Protestant’ at the time, even where Luther had little to do with the Reformation as in Britain and large parts of Germany. Nevertheless, the best-selling record was held by the works of Patrick Hamilton (1504-1528), the Scottish Martyr, whose Marburg dissertation Patrick’s Places of 1527 was apparently read more than any other book.3 Hamilton, too, has long been regarded as a ‘Lutheran’ in doctrine because of a presumed connection with Wittenberg and Jena which is a pure myth. Indeed, when plans were laid to evacuate Wittenberg for Reformed Marburg, Hamilton was also on his way to the Hessian city. Luther planned to move to Marburg where, unlike Wittenberg and Jena, the professors received a substantial salary, but opted out when he found that Lambert had already been chosen by Duke Phillip as Head Professor and not himself. After that, Luther joined the Roman Catholics at the Second Council of Speyer and demanded the death penalty for all Protestants who did not place themselves under him. This was similar to Knox’s attempts to alter the Reformation to his own intolerant wishes in Scotland. Many of Luther’s fellow-staff-members, however, ignored Luther and moved to Marburg. Indeed, it is chronologically impossible in the eyes of those who have searched the matter carefully to place Hamilton in either Wittenberg or Jena at any time. Hamilton’s connection with Germany is solely through his studies at Marburg University under Professor Franz (François) Lambert who established the first Protestant University in Germany and whom Luther severely criticized for taking the Reformation beyond and outside of his leadership.
Neither Hamilton, nor Knox shares the privilege of either founding the Scottish Church or introducing the Reformation to it. So the often told stories that Hamilton ushered in Lutheranism in 1527 or that he was the first ever Scottish martyr in 1528 or that the Scottish Reformation did not start until Knox’s ministry some forty years later cannot stand up to serious enquiry. There is thus an urgent need for a scholarly history of the Scottish Reformation to be written outside of denominational party politics. As this task is too great to be accomplished by one researcher, it would be best if scholars of the various denominations attempted such a work together.
Celtic and Anglo-Saxon missions
The reforming events surrounding Hamilton’s life were part of an interactive movement throughout Europe, built in Britain on the early work of the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon missions such as those of Columban (521-597), Aidan (died 651) and Cuthbert (died 687) and the reforms of the succeeding centuries gained by Robert Grosseteste, alias Greathead, (c.1170-1253), Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-1349), John Wycliffe (c.1330-1384), the Lollards, the Hussites, the Bohemian Brethren and the Waldensians. In fact, from the dawn of Christianity, there was no century without church planting and church reform in one European country or another, with the acknowledgement that terrible setbacks accompanied this work. So after the birth of the Scottish Church in the early centuries after Christ’s life on earth, the restoration and reformation of the Church in Europe had become a continuous process long before Hamilton or Knox came on the scene. Indeed, ancient documents found in northern British cities such as Lindisfarn, Durham, York and Rippon show that the major church-planting in Great Britain actually started in ancient times in the extreme North and proceeded then slowly down South where pagan invaders strove to stifle the faith of the saints.
So, too, these northern areas looked on the rest of Britain and Continental Europe as their Parish and had interests in world-wide evangelism long before the southern realms. Indeed, when the first emissaries of Rome came to Scotland with their new gospel of a heredity pope Peter, the records say that the centuries old Church in Scotland claimed that Andrew and Paul had laid the foundation of the Church in Scotland which would never end and they had shown more trust in Christ than Peter.
After the fifth or sixth centuries the Tees was considered the border between the ancient British kingdoms of Deira which stretched to the Humber and Bernicia which stretched to Southclyde. These two kingdoms, under the House of Ella, were friendly to the Celts and were finally united to form Northumbria. After the founding of Northumbria, early seventh century Aidan began preaching the gospel there and was so successful that the Venerable Bede wrote his life’s story, calling him rightly The Apostle of Northumbria. Aidan probably came from Ireland but is associated with Lindisfarn and Iona. King Oswald of Northumbria had fled to Lindisfarn and become a Christian. Not wanting to have anything to do with Romanised Christianity, he asked Aidan to come over and evangelise the far North of Britain. Aidan’s influence, however, spread throughout Britain so that Bishop Lightfoot emphatically shows that it was Aidan who brought Christianity to Britain and not Augustine. However, we know that Christianity was in Britain before even Aidan who spoke no Saxon himself but was able to merge Saxons and Celts into one Church. Indeed, the Saxon Kings of Deira and Bernicia are known to have embraced Christianity long before Augustine reached the South, which again explodes the myth that Christianity started in England when Augustine ‘converted’ the Kentish Saxons. According to ancient poets and their imitators such as Thomas Chatterton, Christian Diera’s influence stretched southwards beyond Mercia (a Midland country) even before its merger with Bernicia.
During this period, Celtic Britain was busy evangelising the Continental states. Sadly, some of these missionaries, especially from Saxon and Roman British stock, became mixed up in Continental politics and took over Roman ideas of the clergy being over the state. Up to this time, the Roman version of Christianity had kept to the Saxon South East, having little success in Celtic areas. Now militant Saxons strove to bring the British Church under Rome. The Celtic Christians had evangelised large parts of Germany but now Bonifacius told the German Christians the same tale as Augustine in Kent: if Rome does not become your Mother, God cannot be your Father. Thus evil Paganism polluted the Church from within.
By this time, the Picts, Scots, Saxons and gradually the Vikings, had become one people in Scotland and the present Scottish clans are very much a product of this mixture. For instance, the MacAlpins are of Scots stock, though they also took over the Picts and the Humes (my mother’s clan) which are of Saxon stock who married into the Deira Saxon line. The Gunns, MacDonalds, MacLeods and MacQueens are of Scoto-Norse origin.
Chapter Two: Scotland wakes up after a Roman Nightmare
The Scottish Lollards
The main Reformation thrust in Scotland after Roman darkness had fallen on the land came from the Scottish Lollards but also from Continental missionaries who sought to bring Scotland the truths of the gospel only to suffer persecution under the ruling gentry and the Church of Rome, though these persecutions were interspersed with times of peace and liberty to preach itinerantly in Scotland. So the Lollards were able to spread their teaching and Bible distribution freely in Scotland for a number of decades amongst the common people until the rich and learned felt their influence was waning and began to persecute popular Bible preachers. Thus, St Andrews University decreed in 1416 that all Masters of Art would be severely disciplined if they did not denounce Lollardy and uphold the Roman Catholic faith. Extant is Andrew of Wyntoun’s4 Doric verse which related how Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany ‘was a constant Catholike’ and ‘all Lollard he hatyt and heretike.’ Indeed, the honour of leading Scotland out of its popish past is usually given to James Resby who perished in the fires of Roman Catholic zeal at Perth around 1406/7.5 Resby, an English priest and follower of Wycliffe, was convicted of forty charges against the papacy rather than because of any doctrines he held. This reminds one of the Neo-Presbyterian strategy against the Reformed Church of England, true heirs of the Celtic Church, in the 17th century which was not about doctrine but merely externals, ceremonies and politics. At the beginning of the fifteenth century we find a Quentin Folkhyrde who corresponded with the Bohemian Brethren and demanded that priests should know their Bibles better, preach in the language of the people and stop charging for admittance to Holy Communion. He, like most other Reformers at this time, did not seek to form another Church or denomination but merely to clean up what was already established. However, Folkhyrde, though by no means old, disappeared from the face of history around 1410 and no one knows how his life ended. As he had been threatened with possible death to silence him by clerics, aided by the secular Scottish Lords, one fears his life and testimony were ended by violence.
Connections between Reformed Scotsmen and the Bohemian Brethren were well established by the fifteenth century and Bohemian Paul Craw or Krawar, a follower of Wycliffe and Huss, was burnt at the stake in 1433 for preaching in the vicinity of St. Andrew’s University. The work attributed to Knox relates how a brass ball was placed in Craw’s mouth to stop him preaching at his burning. Such events encouraged the founding of St. Salvatore’s College with the express aim of training priests to oppose ‘heresy’, which they saw as rebellion against the pope rather than preaching God’s Word.
Other burnings followed before Hamilton’s time but during the mild reign of James IV (1488-1513), many Lollards were allowed to witness freely. Soon, as Wycliffe’s reforms took hold of Scottish society, a growing number of well-to-do Scottish families confessed the Lollard faith and the King obviously thought it unwise for his own safety to meddle with them. It was during James IV’s reign that King’s College in Aberdeen was founded and James’ son founded St. Leonard’s College at St. Andrew’s where Humanism and the concepts of Erasmus (c. 1466-1536) and Lefevre d’Etaples (1455-1536) were to flourish. James IV encouraged the printing industry in Scotland which opened the doors for the spread of Christian literature and his successor James V (1513-1542) continued to foster Erasmian studies. James was only a child when Hamilton began to have difficulties with his kinsman Archbishop James Beaton who kept King James in the dark concerning his private persecutions. These were through hatred of Patrick Hamilton’s family connections rather than religious convictions. Clan warfare and even inter-family warfare endangered the spread of the gospel in Scotland. James’ French marriage to Mary of Guise brought him closer to the rigid Roman Catholics rather than the more open humanistic Christians. However, in Hamilton’s day, though the Lollards were protected in parts of Germany and Poland and were having easier times in Scotland, France used her close connections with Scotland to help her wipe out Lollard influence, which was not at the time separatist.
A Frenchman dies for Scotland and the gospel
A Frenchman, M. de la Tour went to Scotland in 1523 in the employment of the Duke of Albany. De la Tour appears to have already adopted Lollard or Reformed principles in France and no doubt joined the Duke of Albany’s staff knowing all too well that the Duke’s family had been notorious persecutors of Nonconformity. Once in Scotland, de la Tour did not cease from witnessing to the militant papists concerning their need of faith in Christ. The Duke took no action against de la Tour in Scotland but when de la Tour returned to France, he was accused of spreading ‘Lutheran’ ideas in Scotland and for this ‘crime’ condemned to death by the Paris Parliament in 1527.6 At the time France felt she was the true ruler of Scotland in the name of the pope. At this time, however, the Reformation provided by the Lollards in both Scotland and France was more prominent and ancient than the more recent influence of Luther who had also built his Biblical stance on much that Wycliffe, Hus and the Lollards had taught. Indeed, the French Christians had been preaching justification by faith some twenty years before Luther as witnessed by Lefevre’s 1512 commentary on Romans. The Reforms of James VI (1585-1597), for instance, were a development from Scottish pre-Presbyterian Reforms, independent of any form of Lutheranism and Presbyterianism and were allied to the measures taken by the English Reformation.
King James VI at the forefront of Church reform
James’ reforms went further than inner church order and discipline and between 1594 and 1596 the King was able to subdue the rebellious Roman Catholic Earls. His church polity of 1603 was accepted by the majority of ministers and thus took the wind out of Andrew Melville’s paradoxical humanistic but intolerant sails. Melville responded sulkily to James’ wider-going reforms by calling him ‘God’s silly vassal’ but his own weak position was adequately demonstrated by a youthful poem of George Herbert’s. In his Epigrams in Defence of the Discipline of Our Church, Herbert demonstrated the false accusations Melville levelled against the Reformed Church of England and that Melville’s ‘Reforms’ consisted of coarse language, intolerance and persecution. This reminds us of the so-called reforms of Knox which were couched in words such as ‘bloody’, ‘beastly’, ‘rotten’ and ‘stinking’. When Knox was questioned about his bad manners and terrible language which Foxe put down to his ‘coler’, Knox would say smugly to Foxe in a letter about his notorious Blast of a Trumpet, ‘My rude vehemencie and inconsidered affirmations, which may appear rather to proceed from coler than of zeal and reason, I do not excuse.’7 Whenever Knox’s policy was questioned, he could only defend himself with a bombardment of abuse. Herbert said of Melville who professed to be Knox’s true successor and not mild but firm John Durie, that if he carried his intolerant persecution out consequently, he would soon think he was the only Christian left so there would be nobody else to form a Church. Sadly, Knox inherited this intolerance with Melville from Major and Buchanan and thus strove, by similar faulty allegations when visiting the largest British exile church then in Frankfurt under Mary’s persecutions to influence Calvin against the English Reformation. Happily we have records extant where the pastor of the Frankfurt church Whitehead describes Knox’s forgeries to Calvin as ‘criminal’.
Thus when James Edward McGoldrick says in his Luther’s Scottish Connection that Reformation in Scotland was ‘initially the work of Martin Luther’s disciples’, until Presbyterianism took over, he is expressing an unjustifiable opinion rather than known fact. McGoldrick’s statement is all the more puzzling as he dwells on direct, factual Lollard influence on Scotland’s Reformation himself and is mostly inferential on Lutheran influence where sound evidence is lacking. The fact that Luther’s early protests in the 1520’s were being discussed in Scotland’s universities does not turn the Scots into Lutherans denominationally as McGoldrick assumes. Indeed, Luther had published little to date. Most of the Reformed reading done at this time was from other pens, both British and Continental with Lambert, Frith and Bullinger to the fore. It is far more sensible and to the point to say that in the first half of the sixteenth century, there were strong signs of Reformation in Scotland but denominationalism as such had not started.
Refreshing lack of papal influence in 15th century Scotland
One of McGoldrick’s finer insights into Scotland’s Reformation concerns the part played by the secular powers. He describes how James IV was prepared not to persecute the Lollards but also how from the time of James I (1406-1437) Scottish clergy were forbidden to seek benefices from Rome as the King strove to secure ecclesiastical autonomy for Scotland. After 1482, the Scottish Parliament allowed the Archbishop of St Andrews to appoint senior clergy for the rule of monasteries without papal interference. Indeed, McGoldrick, leaning on W. Stanford Reid, says, ‘By the early sixteenth century the Scots had largely achieved the degree of independence from Rome for which their kings and lords had been striving for about a century.’8 This political background must be kept in mind when assessing the nature of persecution meted out to those who suffered immediately prior to and immediately after Hamilton’s execution. This state of affairs fits in with what Durkan says concerning Roman influence dying off even before the Reformation.
Lollard work in Scotland neglected
Given the well-documented influence of the Lollards on Scotland, it is surprising that Scotland’s own James Gairdner in his standard four volume work on the Lollards hardly mentions Wycliffe’s followers who went up to Scotland to preach. Admittedly Gairdner entitled his massive work Lollardy and the English Reformation, but one can hardly define England’s Lollardy historically without linking it to the other sister countries in the British Isles and their witness throughout Europe. The Lollards were by this time, a pan-European revival movement. So another Scotsman, Thomas M. Lindsay, comes to our assistance in his contribution to The Scottish Historical Review (vol 1, 1904) published by Glasgow University entitled ‘A Literary Relic of Scottish Lollardy’, showing how the Lollards were well represented in Scotland from Wycliffe’s days through into the sixteenth century. Lindsay particularly discusses the pros and cons of an early Lollard presence in St. Andrews. McGoldrick, in his study above-mentioned Luther’s Scottish Connection, pays tribute in his opening words to the ‘principle direction’ which ‘the indomitable John Knox’ gave the Protestant Reformation in Scotland but he, nevertheless corrects this in writing that, ‘few seem to realize that he was not literally the father of the Reformation in his homeland’ and goes on to discuss Knox’s acknowledgement of the witness of the Lollards in Scotland before him before concluding in the face of evidence to the contrary that the Scottish Reformation was initially Luther’s work. This is further evidence that when one sticks to the facts rather than denominational prejudice, one cannot go far wrong. One still meets Dissenters today, a term under which I also place Presbyterians, who argue that all our Reformers fought for a government by elders only though the great bulk of our Reformers were Episcopalians.
One of the several valuable aspects of Janet Macgregor’s thesis9 is that she traces the Scottish Reformation and Hamilton’s part in it back to Lollard times. This shows us that Christ has always had His Reformers in His Church and that our ideas of a set Reformation period, say from 1517 to 1611 needs revision.
Chapter Three: Knoxianism Hinders Reformation
Knoxian hagiolatry shuts out needy research into Scotland’s Reformation
Be this as it may, invariably authors on the Scottish Reformation tend to pick one name out of many connected with the work of Reform and concentrate so much on the deeds of that one person so that the subject out-shines and out classes all others. The denominational religio-political-mindedness of the Melville school must be blamed for this unhappy development, a method bound to spoil true historical research which must, of course, be based on a synergism of material. Every bird’s-eye view, every eye-corner view, must be seen against the background of the entire panorama. Indeed, to understand and reconstruct Hamilton’s life and faith alone entails much historical work from British documents and sources which has still to be done and a pan-European study of Continental archives undertaken. What 19th century David Laing says of Francis Lambert in his Appendix on Hamilton to Knox’s works is also true of many sources and biographical evidence extant from Hamilton’s day, namely that ‘they have oftener been mentioned than examined in recent times.’ For an example of the modern dumbing-down of research into the sources of Scotland’s Reformation, see Joe Calvalho’s biography of Patrick Hamilton reviewed on this web-site. In 1897 Prof. A. R. Mitchel of St Andrews University, the prominent researcher into Scotland’s church history, wrote after his retirement in his Introduction to his reprint of the 1567 Gude and Godlie Ballatis how he felt that little progress had been made in tracing the Scottish Reformation’s history, writing:
‘For though much has been done of late years to vindicate the character of John Knox as one of the truest patriots his country ever had, and to bring into clearer light the sad details of the story of Patrick Hamilton and of George Wishart, and to dissipate the haze which had gathered round the venerable forms of Alexander Alane or Alesius and John M’Alpine or Macchabaeus, as well as of George Buchanan, yet I regret to say that the history of these authors still stands in need of further investigation and elucidation, and that with all the time and thought I have given to the subject, I have been able to glean but a very few facts in addition to those which Johnston and Calderwood long ago recorded regarding their personal history, and which Drs M’Crie and Laing have more recently indorsed.’10
The impoverished state of Scottish research due to denominational narrow-mindedness
Sadly, most writers on Scottish Church History seem to concentrate on popular denominational opinion and their research does not extend beyond the time of Knox and the legends associated with him. This started initially with Beza’s most imperfect view of Reformation in Britain and, in spite of his banning Knox books in Geneva, for want of better knowledge, he felt compelled to use Knox as his sole authority on Scottish events in his Icones of 1580. In more recent years, W. R. Foster in his 1975 book The Church before the Covenants: The Church of Scotland 1596-1638 tells us in his opening words that ‘1560 was a crucial turning point in the formation of the reformed Kirk’, resulting from Knox’s return from the Continent in the previous year. He then merely refers to Knox’s ‘reforms’ after 1560 which he presents as the ‘history’ of the Church in Scotland. Scotsman James Walker also starts his Theology and Theologians published 1872 with the date 1560, telling us that ‘Theology begins in Scotland with John Knox’.
Knox remains an unknown figure
We know very little of Knox’s biography and theological training, if any or academic career, if any. It has been suggested that he was a student of the Roman Catholic revolutionary and quasi-Humanist John Major which can well be believed. So, too, there is much doubt as to whether he was an ordained minister or not. His and Melville’s alleged academic qualifications have been greatly exaggerated by over-enthusiastic and imaginative biographical novelists such as Thomas McCrie. Indeed, in the absence of information coming from Scotland, it is argued that Knox gained his Reformed qualifications and impetus from his Continental sojourns but historians such as Foster and Walker do not outline how Knox came to adopt Reformation doctrines abroad either whilst a chained-up galley-slave in French captivity for eighteen months (1547-49), or a contender against the Reformed Church of England at Frankfurt (1555) or after brief visits to Geneva where he wrote revolutionary works which Calvin and Beza condemned and banned throughout the 50s.11 Here there is no time period possible for a Continental degree course or theological training. Furthermore, before 1560 at least, there is little sign that Knox was Reformed and Knoxian writers comment seldom on Knox’s work in Scotland before 1560 from where Knox regularly commuted to the Continent. Even then, contemporary critics claimed that he was still a Roman Catholic in everything in name as he kept at least forty Roman Catholic customs but merely changed their names to ‘protestantise’ them.
Nevertheless, Knox’s own alleged account of the Reformation is now so respected and praised by those who believe the Scottish Reformation started with Knox that his works are widely quoted as original and reliable sources and no effort is made to compare Knox’s work with older or contemporary official state and ecclesiastical documents and Reformed works. This preoccupation with Knox has caused much evidence to be ignored or even lost.
A dismal record of lack of research amongst many writers on Scottish Church history
A typical example of this neglect of sources is H. J. Hillerbrand’s 500 page collection of Reformation documents entitled The Reformation in its Own Words. In his section on ‘The Reformation in England and Scotland’, the compiler ignores Scotland’s early Reformation history including its history of Nonconformity and starts with Knox’s account of his days as George Wishart’s armed bodyguard. Wishart was executed in 1546; nineteen years after Patrick Hamilton had delivered his famous Reformation manifesto locis communes at Marburg and eighteen years after his martyrdom. Nevertheless, Hillerbrand concludes, ‘The story of the Scottish Reformation is inextricably linked with the name of John Knox’ and then quotes Knox’s accounts of post-Wishart events throughout the following nine pages. In other words even the story of George Wishart is almost solely known through the revelations of his ex-body-guard. This is also all that Hillerbrand presents as the history of the Scottish Reformation ‘in its own words’. No exact source documentation is given as Knox’s version is, for Hillerbrand, original history and so reliable that original records are not needed. The Reformation’s ‘own words’ are Knox’s words. So, in the eyes of post-Knoxian traditionalists the Scottish Reformation is to be dated from 1560 making Scotland one of the last countries in Europe to become Reformed. Actually, she was one of the first.
Chapter Four: Discovering the True Knox
Was Knox what he is made out to be?
Ignoring older sources and official documents is an odd way to write history. John Strype, for instance gives as much space to Knox as Hillerbrand in his 1709 History of the Reformation but stresses Knox’s ‘hot spirit’ and the ‘prejudice’ of the man who ‘for some Cause or other conceived against his church’.12 He shows that Knox was a politician and revolutionary but not a Reformer. So, first, with Strype’s well documented complaints in mind, we must examine whether Knox was indeed an authority on the Reformation and then consider whether his major work can be counted as reliable and acceptable as an original, definitive source such as the writings of the British Reformers whom he opposed. Sadly, the present Protestant Scottish Church is dominated by strong Presbyterian post-Melville thinking which admits of no other kind of Reformation in Scotland other than a later Neo-Presbyterian one. That is, given that we accept their connotation of the term ‘Presbyterian’ which is much younger than the Old Presbyterian Church and which revolted very strongly against Scotland’s earlier and purer Reformation. Even the ‘Wee Frees’ and the Scottish Free Church Continuing have what can only be called a New Presbyterian basis and thus are a departure from the peaceful, tolerant Presbyterianism of pre-Melville times. One cannot call them a split-off as they have little connection with the main Reformation process. Thus these New Presbyterian bodies invariably start their Reformation history off with 1560 and the advent of Knox, thinking quite wrongly that he introduced Presbyterianism to Scotland as understood today. Knox, however, belonged as little to Presbyterianism as he did to the pre-Knoxian true Reformation and stood far closer to Rome and its intolerant tyranny than to preachers of true Reformation such as Latimer, Tyndale, Lambert, Hamilton, Bullinger, Lever, Coverdale, Foxe, Grindal, Jewel, Becon, the Duries and very many others.
Knox’s original History of the Reformation is lost
Knox’s original works, allegedly dictated between 1559 and 1571 in broad Scots to an amanuensis who wrote them down in a different Scottish dialect, are lost to us as they subsequently went through the hands of numerous editors and contributors. The remaining highly altered works attributed to Knox give very little evidence of the state of the Scottish church in Knox’s day and those who stood close to him are rarely named, even the Reform-leading Duries, who played such a large part in the affairs of the day. John Durie Senior, who succeeded Knox as minister of St. Giles, is not mentioned. Strangely Knox does not mention evil abbot George Durie’s personal name, though the two families were closely connected but refers to him merely as the Abbot of Dumfermline. Nor does he mention, though he writes of persecution, that George condemned his cousin John to be walled up and left to die because he embraced the Reformation. Durie’s escape was one of the great stories told by his and Knox’s contemporaries but the author of Knox History does not mention it. Lennox believes that the writer of the History had knowledge of the occurrences between 1558 and 1561 which would cover much of the life of both George and John. George Durie died in January 1561 and John, said to have been the last person to see Knox alive, died in 1600. We would indeed expect a mention somewhere of the Reformed Duries by Knox, providing that the work attributed to him is truly his and written when it is purported to have been written. This is most likely not the case as it appears that Knox’s name was attached to the work merely to give it respectability. Knox’s original story, if he did write such an account, appears either lost to us or has been turned more or less into an historical novel by later writers. From the start, contemporary historians and fellow-ministers such as Spottiswoode, who were at the grass roots of the Scottish Reformation, questioned Knox’s work, even before it disappeared so long from public notice. It would appear that Knox’s actual words were never really recorded but a ‘translated’ version of a corrupted text was compiled to be used for whatever the individual polemic ‘translator’ had purposed backed up by Knox’s name. Cuthbert Lennox tells us that this was ‘copied and re-copied by scribes of differing abilities and of varying bias,’ who ‘tinkered and modified’ them for over two hundred years until:
‘the traditional text became overlaid with emendations in some copies, and enfeebled by excisions and suppressions in others, while of clerical errors there is no small crop in almost every one of the extant versions. Several times in the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, one or other of these versions was printed and put forward as Knox’s work. But it was only in 1846 that, as a result of the painstaking research of the notable Scottish antiquarian scholar Dr. David Laing, a really authentic and complete version of the ‘History’ was issued by the Wodrow Society.’13
The omission of mentioning the Duries’ work in the Scottish Reformation suggest a post Melville date of composition as the strong Durie influence ended with Melville’s insurrection. Robert Durie was accused wrongly of certain misdemeanors by the Estate Lords and the King pleaded with Melville to give evidence in Durie’s favour as he was party to Durie being kept in prison. Melville refused to do the King and the Old-Presbyterians a favour and the Lords had their way and exiled Robert Durie. In subsequent web-site postings, God willing, I shall vindicate John Durie Senior and his son Robert. I have already published a thorough-going study of John Durie’s grandson of the same name entitled The Practical Divinity of Universal Learning: John Durie’s Educational Pansophism.
No original text of Knox’s alleged ‘works’
So we have no original History of the Reformation either from Knox’s own pen or from known amanuenses who have left original records of what Knox told them. Thus Croft Dickinson in his 1949 Foreword to Knox’s ‘History’ claims that popular renderings of Knox’s work have ‘robbed the book of too much of its essential spirit’ and that Knox’s original English was better than that of his amanuensis. Yet how can one be dogmatic about Knox’s ‘essential spirit’ or good English when the originals are said to be lost and one is left with different versions, worded inferiorly, and in different dialects? Furthermore, Knox’s major editor Laing seriously questions the truth of many of Knox’s alleged findings and Andrew Lang, in his biography of Knox, argues that the true history of the Scottish Reformation had been lost because of Knox’s and his editors’ ‘tinkerings’, giving Knox, and not the copyists, nevertheless, the major blame for misrepresenting Scottish history.
Knox and Geneva
One doubt as to Knox’s first-hand information about for instance the founding and growth of the Refugee Church in Geneva is confirmed by this author, after comparing an entry in the only known early edition of the register of the English Church at Geneva (1555-1549) with preserved letters of Knox. Here we have a sure example of Knox’s handwriting so this single entry is an ‘original’ proof that Knox was at the printing of the list or soon after in Geneva. However, Knox was certainly not present at the founding of the church, nor was he privy to the Church Order Calvin gave the Church. He was also absent from Geneva at the time of many other entries in the Church’s membership lists and other records. It is thus most difficult to see how Knox could have been, as so often argued, Geneva’s pastor, minute-keeper and resident chronologist during the brief life of the English church there before the Elizabethan Settlement.14 Furthermore, the account of Geneva in the History attributed to Knox is one of uprisings, revolutions and political and religious instability, whereas modern Presbyterians look to ‘Knox’s’ Geneva as a Heaven on Earth. Actually, this moves this author to look upon the alleged Knox account as portraying the truth as Geneva in Calvin’s time was a centre of intrigue, revolt and political turbulence.
Knox was indeed once listed as a pastor of the Genevan Refugee church in his absence when it was hoped that he would return to stay, which he did not. Furthermore, it was customary for the Pastor and co-pastors of each refugee church to append their signature first to any letter sent on behalf of the church to a fellow church. During the period Knox was allegedly in Germany and Geneva (not yet part of Switzerland) this does not occur. Besides, Knox was against the idea of a co-pastor. One positive development in Geneva on 15th December, 1558 shows that Knox was there at that date. But we know he commuted for a few years between Scotland and the Continent but was permanently in Scotland from 1559 on. Towards the end of 1528 a delegation from Frankfurt had visited Geneva and discussed with them the urgency of all the refugee churches uniting in their joy at the end of Mary’s tyranny, leaving the refugees free to return to their homeland and home Church. W. Kethe of the Frankfurt church was busy collecting letters of support from various parts of Germany and Switzerland. Here we find such well-known names as Pilkington, Isaac, Knollys, Nowell, Brickbate and Gray from Frankfurt and Thomas Lever now at Aarau. Knox’s signature is the third after Goodman and Coverdale under the Genevan letter, indicating that he was not the pastor at the time.
Lennox alters the text himself
Though, Cuthbert Lennox, a later editor (1905), complains about the corrupt state of the alleged Knox manuscript, he himself radically altered the vocabulary, grammar and style of the edition he worked on thus continuing the ‘tinkering’, because he found the text ‘hopelessly archaic’ and wished to improve it.15 He thus changed the entire text into most artificial English, confessing that he had altered the narrative of the story and departed from the ipissima verba of the work. This is taboo in any serious academic research. There has been quite a scandal in Germany recently through prominent scholars having had their doctor titles annulled because they have been dishonest with quotes and sources. In honest research, one wants the original language not ‘easy readers’ made more difficult through cutting and pasting and even alteration. Cases in point are the modern renderings of Trail and Bunyan by the BOT which have thus lost their evangelical, Reformed thrust; this loss enhanced further by introductions and comments which quite alter the expressed intentions of the authors. Thus, though Trail wrote to vindicate the doctrine of justification and Bunyan the larger gospel call, both doctrines are destroyed in these books. Thus it has now become common for commentators on Knox to use either whatever version or dialect form they like best, or provide their own English versions with their own interpretations of what Knox ‘really’ meant. This is comes perhaps as no surprise as we are now receiving almost yearly new ‘translations’ of the Bible with such radical alterations that the Bible will soon be merely a collection of modern myths for the so-called ‘Man in the Street’ for whom, according to modern Bible critics such as Alan Clifford, the language of the street is all he needs to get him through eternal life. At the time of writing these words, I am dealing with correspondents who use modern translations to show that the covenant made with Abraham, Moses etc. was a big mistake, conjuring up modern ‘translations’ to prove it!
So what has happened is that hundreds of years after Knox’s alleged own version, we have lost the original text and have to do with a ‘mended’ or ‘restored’ version of unsure authenticity. Furthermore, Knox’s chief editor David Laing seriously questions the truth of many of the findings attributed to Knox in the version he edited. Indeed, Knox’s biographer, Andrew Lang, argues, perhaps conclusively, that the true history of the Scottish Reformation has been lost because it was Knox, and not his later copyists, scribes and editors, who willfully misrepresented it, and therefore Lang does not trust Knox as a historian at all! So whether the facts of the Reformation were altered by Knox or those who manipulated his work, the fact remains that the six volumes attributed to Knox are highly unreliable and depict a patch-work, multi-authored history.
Knox needs ‘careful watching’
In his John Knox and the Reformation, Lang speaks of ‘Knox’s intrigues and his account of them’ and concludes, Knox ‘needs careful watching’ and says of his alleged ‘History’, ‘it is difficult to determine the amount of truth it may contain’. Lang explains how Knox constantly gets his facts mixed-up and dislocates events and blows statistics up by several hundred percent. He concludes that ‘Knox uses his ink like the cuttlefish to conceal the facts’.16 Lang, also clearly associates Knox and possibly George Wishart and their politico-religious followers with the murder of Cardinal Beaton.17 Concerning both the popish and Reformed parties, Lang argues in this chapter that Knox’s fanatical idea of ‘killing no murder’’ made him ‘little better than an anarchists’.18 In summing up Knox’s ideas of erasing opposition to his brand of Christianity by exterminating his opponents, Lang thus closes his chapter on ‘Knox’s Lost Opportunity’ by saying ‘He was a child of the old pre-Christian scriptures; of the earlier, not of the later prophets.’
Knox no ‘founding father’ of true Presbyterianism
This writer would conclude that an exaggerated trust in Knox’s account and the more negative of his idiosyncrasies, which included going about heavily armed as a body-guard for others, and forging documents which he then put forward to denigrate their alleged ‘true’ authors, has harmed the writing of the true objective history of the Scottish Reformation no end. It is also seen as a form of deceit by this author that though modern Presbyterians look upon Knox as a kind of ‘founding father’, he was anything but a Presbyterian and by the time of Andrew Melville, his Book of Discipline had been entirely re-written and his entire teaching on order, discipline and church hierarchy re-structured. His name, however, has been kept up as a respectable shield or ‘logo’ for the more militant Presbyterians to hide behind ever since. They believe that Knox gives them historical respectability. It is difficult to see how any Reformed believer can see any ‘respectability’ in this attitude. There are thus as many fables and legends told about Knox, especially in modern Presbyterian works, as one finds in the most superstitious Roman Catholic ‘Legends of the Saints’. This makes Presbyterian defenders like Campbell in his The Triumph of Presbyterianism claim that it was the Presbyterians intolerance which led them to triumph over the other Reformed, Protestant churches. Actually, Scottish Presbyterian intolerance never triumphed over the other churches as a church without moral integrity cannot be regarded as a church. Campbell, however, quotes Masson concerning Presbyterian policy which was ‘to tie Toleration round the neck of the Independents, stuff the two struggling monsters into one sack and sink them to the bottom of the sea.’19 Here is another sign of Presbyterian intolerance as though they were the pioneers of the independent, separatist movement from the Episcopalian Church; they boasted that they represented the one true Church and all other ecclesiastical bodies whether Church of England, Congregationalists, Independents or Baptists were ‘Dissenters’. It is thus safer to read Spottiswoode, who challenged Knox’s accuracy from the start and Calderwood who sticks close to the official documents, records and sources. For one who wishes to know the truth about Scottish church history, it is best to tackle Knox merely on the periphery of one’s studies and accept what Gordon Donaldson, the voluminous writer on Scottish history says:
‘the John Knox of mythology is very largely compounded of the Andrew Melville of history, for it was Melville and not Knox who was the originator of Scottish Presbyterianism.’20 We shall look at Melville’s re-construction of ‘the old faith’ in a following essay.
Knox showed no sign of using Scottish original records
Peter Lorimer is adamant concerning earlier, original records of the Scottish Church that ‘Knox could not have had access to these registers when he wrote’. Neither could he have used Foxe’s detailed accounts either as these were not recorded in the 1564 printing of Acts and Monuments which Knox used. However, Knox, if it were Knox, in his opening chapter of his ‘History’, tells us that he has ‘avoided ‘curious repetitions’ and used the works of Foxe, Lambert and Frith as his sources, again mentioning no original Scottish documentation at all. The events mentioned in the six volumes of the History cover a far wider area than that supplied by the three authors mentioned.
The value of keeping to original accounts
The value of preserving original statements, decrees and authoritative documents whether civil or ecclesiastical is that they are often the most reliable and are less prone to alteration. When comparing Laing’s, Croft Dickinson’s and Lennox’s editions of Knox’s History of the Reformation with extant contemporary records one finds many divergences and W. A. Craigie’s well documented criticism of Laing’s work on the St. Andrews MS of Wyntoun’s Original Chronicle of Scotland shows that scholarly editing often contains most unscholarly guess-work.21 Knox’s exaggerations, misunderstandings and misleading interpretations are often dwarfed by more modern writers who add to and embroider words claimed to be Knox’s and invariably add to the myth-building and do not take up Strype’s challenge that they should deal also with Knox’s dire failings.
In his Preface to John Knox and the Reformation, Andrew Lang writes of Knox’s ‘shocking principles’ but claims like Strype, ‘they are not, as a rule, set before the public.’ Principle Hugh Watt of New College, Edinburgh, dealt with these editor embroiderers and embellishers in the late nineteen-forties in his John Knox in Controversy. The publisher’s blurb tells us that Watt ‘examines and removes many of the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the romantic historians.’ In his ‘home truths’ he explains how Knox fell out with the Reformers more often than with Roman Catholics. Here Thomas Carlyle is much to blame for portraying both Cromwell and Knox as if they were 19th century Romantic heroes suitable to be ranked with Ivanhoe.
Watt’s reviewers recommended taking Watt’s bubble bursting seriously but few modern writers, especially of the denominational Presbyterian kind, appear to have taken this wise advice to heart. John Durkan, an authority on the Scottish Reformation from the Roman Catholic side, believes that William Croft Dickinson in his two volume work on Knox’s ‘History’ has restored a better text than Laing but Durkan has his own interpretive bent and has apparently not researched Knox to the depth Laing and Dickinson have.22 Durkan is very objective, however, in claiming that the Roman Catholic Church ‘died with the Reformation because it was already dying.’ He also admits that ‘Protestant accusations can be only too easily confirmed by the public records.’ He nevertheless concludes in dealing with Dickinson’s edition of Knox:
‘Knox’ history certainly ought to be used by the historian; but it can only be used critically, the historian bearing always in mind that it is a propaganda work, and the propaganda written by one who only knew one side of the case and whose mind was poisoned against much of the humanism and genuine religious reforms of his time.’
One cannot excuse Knox by arguing that he was unaware of these reforms in his day as he urged Estate Lords who still clung to Rome to back him in punishing such Reformers whether Church of England or Dissenters ‘with the full force of the law’ which included the death penalty which was not murder, he argued’ in the case of those with whom he disagreed. Readers will find the same warped opinion aired by Rutherford in his blasphemous book Lex Rex. But, of course, Rutherford was of the Major, Buchanan, Knox and Melville school of New-Presbyterians. Knox also denigrated true Reformers such as Grindal, Lever, Foxe and Jewel before Calvin. When he began to exert authority in the Scottish Church, he kept up the old papist organization of diocesan areas under new names and kept to a seven-fold ministry. Though he had combatted the Church of England and stormed against Queens, when he returned to Scotland he begged Elizabeth to send him troops to enforce his religion onto the Scottish population.
Thus we can understand why the Knoxians were so critical of James VI when he, as a convinced Protestant, curbed the powers of the Roman Catholic Lords and encouraged a new translation of the Bible for the Scottish Church long before becoming King of England. Indeed, from Knox’s time on and especially in the Melville era, hobnobbing with the Lords against the Protestant King threatened to destroy all that the Reformation had won for Scotland. This became most apparent in the Melville era. This was mostly through the foundational work of Jesuit French Humanist John Major and George Buchanan who continued his work, both no friends of Scottish liberty.
Chapter Five: Knox on the Continent
The Troublemaker at Frankfurt
When Knox left Scotland for Germany in the middle fifteen-fifties during the Marian persecutions, he at once quarreled violently with the Frankfurt church who had called him as co-pastor. The glorified Knoxian version of his unprofitable brief stay in Frankfurt, though he refused to cooperate with the French, Belgian, Dutch and English Protestant refugees and their Frankfurt hosts, is a myth now widely propagated since Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones left his excellent preaching to play the part of a church historian in his very badly researched book The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’. The book is a grand compilation of distorted and invented ‘facts’. Here, Lloyd-Jones narrows down the historical meaning of the term Puritan to fit Knox’s character, harshly critisising the English Reformers, forgetting that the vast bulk of Reformers were Anglicans until the Presbyterians moved Cromwell to outlaw them on that fateful Bartholomew’s Day in 1643 on the very anniversary of the suppression of the Protestants by Roman Catholic powers in France. Persecution is always true to type and evil under whatever name it is enforced. Lloyd-Jones feels free, all along, without due research, to perform as an Ostrich, contradicting ancient accounts in true Knoxian style. The poverty of information he gives regarding true Puritans is illustrated by the fact that the great Puritan Richard Sibbes is featured on the cover yet is only mentioned in half a sentence in the book. However, the time he gives to Knox, a man of the 16th century and not the 17th century of the Puritans, is quite over-proportioned and consists of sheer biased eulogy. Lloyd-Jones pushes Puritanism back a hundred years, which is only right, though it makes more sense to call the period that of the Reformation. The big difference is that Lloyd-Jones sees Knox as the sole Puritan in that age amongst an evil company of Church of England Reformers. One-sided religious revisionism seems to know no chronological boundaries.
A Welshman scorns ‘an English face’
Lloyd-Jones makes much of the idea that the majority of the church who joined after Knox wanted to carry on worshipping ‘with an English face’ as they had done in England but does not show how, contrary to his (and allegedly Knox’s) opinion those stalwart Church of England men, almost to a man, fitted in with the new situation in Germany allowing for a more loose order of worship. However, where Lloyd-Jones’ ‘Anglicans’ actually showed great flexibility and tolerance, the Welshman scolds them for having a spirit of compromise. However, where Knox obviously changed his mind on several occasions, Lloyd-Jones praises him for his shrewdness in doing so. Whether right or wrong, Knox is always ‘right’ for Lloyd-Jones. A typical example is Lloyd-Jones’ opinion of Bishop Hooper whom Lloyd-Jones considers as an ‘almost-Puritan’. However, Hooper, a thorough-going student of Bullinger, altered his opinion concerning inessentials and, because he wore a white gown instead of a black Turkish one, the latter being Lloyd-Jones favourite, the Welsh enthusiast struck him from his list of Puritans and chose Knox instead. Knox, who made far more fundamental changes than Hooper is, nevertheless, called ‘a big man’ by Lloyd-Jones because ‘it is only a small man who never changes his opinion.23 However, here Lloyd-Jones reveals his rather extreme party-mindedness and says of Scotland’s Knox and Hooper’s England:
‘Knox always seemed to understand that the position of England was a particular one; and he was surely right. The Scotsman had the sense and the understanding and the ability to see that the English is sui generis. The Englishman – and you cannot ignore these things – has a genius for compromise. He has a hatred of definitions and precise statements. He still boasts of the fact that when he had an Empire it did not have a written Constitution! He glories in the fact that he has always ‘muddled through’. Knox always recognized this, so when he was in London he was prepared to do things which he had not done in Berwick and Newcastle, and which he most certainly did not, and would not do, in Frankfurt and Geneva, and when he went back to Scotland. But when he writes to these people in England he knows the position is different; and so, appearing to contradict himself, he advises them to tolerate certain things, and to conform.’24
Lloyd-Jones supports Knox’s erroneous Lord’s Supper interpretation
So here we have the Welshman’s version of what he feels is Knox’s ‘sense’, ‘understanding’ and ‘ability’. Where Hooker and the English Reformers were allegedly full of contradictions, Knox only ‘appears to contradict’ himself. In describing what these ‘contradictions’ were, of which Knox was only ‘apparently’ guilty, Lloyd-Jones is not open and honest with his readers. He makes much of the supposition that Knox was more Biblical on the Lord’s Supper but does not tell us of Knox’s theory of how to celebrate it. He was under the illusion that Jesus and His disciples sat when eating, so argued that the congregation must sit when receiving the Supper. Cranmer, by far the better theologian, brought up on the Biblical languages which Knox was not, explained to Knox that if he were to be truly ‘Biblical’, he must recline at the Supper. The custom in the English Frankfurt Church was that those celebrating the Lord’s Supper could stand or sit or kneel (the later because prayers were involved in the celebration) as they felt proper. Knox scolded them for their ‘compromise’, as does Lloyd-Jones, and would have them follow what Knox claimed was ‘his order’, though he refused to work with the other members to draw up any order at all in writing. Indeed, Knox told the English that he would not move from his erroneous stand and that even if an angel told him to change his opinion, he would not. At one time, he did agree to use a common order with the members, most of whom were ministers, but opted out immediately after for reasons of what Lloyd-Jones calls ‘shrewdness’. As a result of his superstitious, sacramental approach to the rites of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism, no one received the Lord’s Supper and no one was baptized whilst Knox made trouble in Frankfurt.
So, too, Lloyd-Jones is quite wrong with his supposition that Knox would have ordinary bread for the Supper but the English ‘wafers’, thus showing that Knox was Reformed and the English ‘papists’. Most of the Continental Protestant churches, including the Scandinavian ones, used wafers as did Lloyd-Jones’ own beloved Geneva! Whether bread is leavened or unleavened makes no difference to a true Protestant as no bread has sacral power or is a means of grace in itself. Knox appears to have thought on strongly sacramental lines as he praised the one and condemned the other. Furthermore, the popish thin wafer had a crucifix stamped on it which was thought to give it its Tran substantial magic, whereas the Reformed Church of England of the First Edwardian Prayer Book used unleavened bread of a thick and bread-like nature and there was no crucifix stamped on it. However, Lloyd-Jones has obviously not researched into the 1552 Prayer Book, preferred by the Frankfurt English, which they put aside for a while for the sake of peace with Knox and the political situation in Frankfurt. This Prayer Book, which Knox rejected, did not prescribe wafers at all but demanded ‘common bread’! Thus the Reformed Prayer Book, as it was called, did not confuse the symbolic with the physical properties of bread like Knox and Lloyd-Jones but ruled that the bread should be ‘such as is usual to be eaten at the table with other meats’. However, if Knox and Lloyd-Jones stuck to their idea that everything in the Lord’s Supper must be according to the First Supper then they should eat unleavened bread whilst reclining on cushions.
Lloyd-Jones has simply not researched concerning Knox’s choleric life and especially his death. He appears not to have visited the Frankfurt archives or any other German archives in search of material. This author can honestly say that he has worked for months on end through over fifty archives and libraries in Britain and Europe to trace the history of the English Church on the Continent and in the New World. On the other hand, Lloyd-Jones is as ignorant of British sources as he is of Continental ones. Besides, apart from all the very many historical inaccuracies, the book is full of self-contradictions such as in the section ‘Puritanism and its Origins’ (1972), where Lloyd-Jones commends King Edward’s tutor Richard Cox for his Nonconformity in Frankfurt but in the section ‘John Knox – The Founder of Puritanism’ (1973), he scolds Cox continually for being a rank Anglican hardliner, (though, in contradiction to Knox, he advocated the Strasburg-Geneva ‘French’ forms of worship). Lloyd-Jones claims that Cox was Knox’s prime enemy at Frankfurt, concerning events where either Knox had no quarrel with Cox or where he did not mention Cox as a contender but others, or he accuses Cox of contradicting Knox, though Cox had not even joined the church. Arber stresses in his collection of Frankfurt records that it was not Cox but Whittingham who advised Knox to flee from Frankfurt to avoid being arrested for various breaches of Frankfurt law. So, too, Knox had protested sternly against all the Reformed orders suggested to him before ever the bulk of believers from England, including Cox or Strasburg arrived in Frankfurt. When they arrived, they opted for a compromise due to the wishes of the majority and the city officials in the face of Knox’s protests. Yet Lloyd-Jones accuses the English of ‘muddling through’ at Frankfurt where Knox offered no alternatives.
Lloyd-Jones’ description of the Frankfurt Church is mere empty polemics, myths and legends as he seeks to ban the Church of England Reformers from the ranks of Puritan thinking and put less Reformed Knox forward as the pedestal and pillar of Puritanism and thus the Reformation. Occasionally he slips in a good word for Church of England men such as Foxe, Grindal and Whittingham, but gets his historical facts wrong, here, too. As soon as Knox had left, the church under Whitehead (not Cox) drew up a new discipline appointing a plurality of pastors. They had had enough of Knox’s one-man-show!
Lloyd-Jones the revolutionary
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book gives a most iconic portrayal of Knox, leaving his doctrines aside, to emphasise his importance as an anti-English revolutionary. His criticisms of the Church of England are mean and unfounded and he draws a direct link between the troubles at Frankfurt and the Great Rebellion under Cromwell, arguing that the troubles at Frankfurt under the protests of Knox in the short time he was there makes him the pioneer politico-religious rebel whose opposition eventually paved the way for the disestablishment of the Church of England and the setting up of a new Ultra-Puritan utopian state some eighty-five years later which led to the Reformed Church of England being outlawed, the Biblical Covenant being broken and a new socio-political church based on Sharia-like ‘case-law’ being employed. Lloyd-Jones view of Puritanism rules out the Puritan majority who were against viewing religious reform purely as a political revolution. Of Knox’s troublesome behaviour at Frankfurt, Lloyd-Jones thus says of the man he claims after Carlyle was ‘the father of Puritanism’:25
‘Here he was ahead of Calvin, and this is again a sign of true Puritanism. I maintain that one cannot truly understand the revolution that took place here in England in the next century except in the light of this teaching. Here was the first opening of the door that led to that later development.’26
Thus, according to Lloyd-Jones, the 16th century troubles at Frankfurt sparked off the terrible bloodshed of the civil, Commonwealth and denominational wars of the 17th century. Lloyd-Jones sees this as a positive trend and regards the bulk of the English Reformers, who were denounced by Knox, as representing a false and lost cause.
Scotsman Andrew Lang, the most thorough-going of Knox’ biographers, warns against the hagiographical ignorance of Knox lovers and explains the fact that the shocking writings of the alleged Knox withheld from the public by his biographers because of the influence of Carlyle. Of the latter, Lang says:
‘Mr Carlyle introduced a style of thinking about Knox which may be called platonically Puritan. Sweet enthusiasts glide swiftly over all in the Reformer that is specially distasteful to us.’27
England’s own John Strype, after presenting a scorching analysis of Knox’s blunders, says in his 1709 Annals of the Reformation, “This is enough to show the Hot Spirit of this Man, and the Prejudice he had, for some Cause or other conceived against this Church and Kingdom: where he had once been kindly harboured.”Scotland’s Lang, commenting on Knox’s bad-tempered intolerance, concludes:
‘The truth is that Knox contemplates a State in which the civil power shall be entirely and absolutely of his own opinions; the King, as ‘Christ’s silly vassal’ to quote Andrew Melville, being obedient to such prophets as himself. The theories of Knox regarding the duty to revenge God’s feud by the private citizen, and regarding religious massacre by the civil power, ideas which would justify the Bartholomew horrors, appear to be forgotten in modern times.’
Convinced, however, that Knox ‘Puritan’ genius made him the ideal revolutionary, Lloyd-Jones even declares that ‘I would argue that he (Knox) is in many ways the father of the American War of Independence’.28 If Reform is to be anything, MLG seems to believe, it must be through political revolution. Thus one wonders why Lloyd-Jones stops at the earlier British and American revolutions and does not add the American Civil War; the 1812 War which caused the slaughter of so many innocent Native Americans; the German revolution of 1848; the Nazi revolution of 1933 and, nearer our day, the so called Arab Spring Revolutions. These are all in keeping with Knox’s and Lloyd-Jones Revolution Theology that looks on revolution and usurpation starting in Geneva as leading to the ideal ‘City on a Hill’ in comparison to peaceful Zürich, the capital of true Reformation. Lloyd-Jones is thus quite in agreement with Knox who, when the majority voted against his cause and asked him to resign as preacher, he could only say:
‘O, Lord God! Open their hearts that they may see their wickedness; and forgive them, for thy manifold mercies! And I forgive them, O, Lord! From the bottom of my heart.’
Lloyd-Jones’ make-believe story of Cox’s criticism of Knox and how he moved the majority to throw Knox out of Frankfurt is shown as the myth it is by the words of Edward Abner in his compilation of texts relevant to the Frankfurt situation. Abner says clearly:
‘As Knox himself tells us, pages 67, 68, his banishment from Frankfurt was not the work of the new Anglican Church as a whole: but entirely the act of two members of it: Edward Isaac. Of Kent; and Henry Parry, who had been Chancellor of the Cathedral of Salisbury.’29
Abner gives Knox’s account of his leaving Frankfurt how Isaac, after Knox had denounced the Church of England and the Prayer Book instead of preaching, visited him and begged him to be more balanced in his criticism, to which Knox replied, ‘I could wish my name to perish, so that GOD’s Book and his glory might only be sought amongst us.’ Knox then claims Isaak ‘and some Priests’ wanted him put in prison.
Knox finishes his account by boasting of what he would reveal to the world about what the English Reformers such as Jewel, whom he seemed to particularly dislike, did, but, Abner comments that Knox never put this empty threat into practice. However, this may have been Knox’s report of the Frankfurt troubles in his History.30 We note that, according to Bullinger, Jewel was one of the foremost Reformers in Europe as his correspondence with Jewel reveals as recorded in the Parker Society works.
The turbulent times introduced by New Presbyterianism’s mythology
Back in Scotland, Knox kotowed back to Anglicanism and the Edwardian Articles, in spite of Lloyd-Jones insistence that Knox did not compromise like the English Church. But gradually Knox assisted in introducing the turbulent times of a Counter-Reformation and split-up Church caused by his support of and influence on the Estate Lords and Presbyterian hardliners and the decades long struggle of young James VI to shake himself free from the control and often cruelty of regents, tutors, New Presbyterian fanatics and plotting Lords. He told the Estate Lords to use all the powers of the law to rid Scotland of those who disagreed with him and wrote to Queen Elizabeth asking her to send English troops to help him enforce his rule over Scotland’s people. Talk about ill-balanced compromise! However, James’ personal, peaceful plans for a Reformed, Pan-British, Pan-Protestant, indeed, Pan-European Church gradually developed contra Knox’s hardliner, totalitarian policies and he played a marked role in raising the ire of the non-progressive backward-looking Knoxians. James opponents, such as Andrew Melville, brought up on the peculiar revolutionary teaching of John Major, George Buchanan and John Knox based on the old priestly Celtic clan and Estate Lords structure of ancient mythology found little use for a King who was not a mere constitutional figurehead. Their delight was to put the clock back to idyllic but fairy-tale times in Never-Never Land when the clan’s priestly chieftain allegedly watched paternally over his tribe and lived in peace with the other clans forming one united Caledonian nation. They forgot that the Picts and Scots had been united by the hand of strong Kings in the early ninth century and the reign of Kenneth MacAlpine was certainly not according to the Major/Buchanan/Knox/Melville scheme. Clan warfare in the old days was rampant and was the last thing to be likened to an ideal Church. Their fiery crosses were the exact opposite of the cross on Golgotha. So, too, it was the chieftains and Estate Lords who hindered national unity, because of their Pictish, Scots, Saxon or Viking background and those who adhered to old Celtic Christianity or the new Roman faith. The Danish new conquerors of the Scots especially demanded large parts of North and East Scotland as their own historical domain until Andrew Melville’s days. So, too, the New Presbyterian view of an old patriarchal hierarchy is challenged by the historical fact that the earliest inhabitants of Scotland, as far as the historical records go, formed a matri-linear society. So, too, it was obvious that Major’s, Buchanan’s, Knox’s and Melville’s view of the Gael was part of French Celtic tradition fostered by the Roman Catholic Church and was not indigenous to Caledonia at all.
James’ refusal to be ruled by ancient mythological thinking
Buchanan had sought to bully James into accepting his modern back-to-the-past theories of state and religion but the clear-headed and precocious child had merely hated his tutor for his uncouth barbarity, albeit accompanied with the highest humanistic scholarship which James did not reject. James thus abhorred the intolerant anarchy of Scottish religious leaders whether Roman Catholic like the Beatons or pseudo-Humanistic like George Buchanan and Andrew Melville who strove to either abolish the Reformation or rebuild it on institutional, party-minded lines fostered in the Surbonne rather than through Reformer Patrick Hamilton’s, Marburg’s, Lambeth’s, Zürich’s and Geneva’s teaching. James’ policy of being effective as a national leader was to follow the programme of one God over all, one King over a united country, and one Church open to all Protestants whether Episcopalian or Presbyterians. This was anathema to New Presbyterian tyranny. Not that the New Presbyterians were totally anti-national. The truth of the matter was that the Presbyterians, through the influence of Major, Buchanan, Knox and Melville, wished to unite Scotland politically and ecclesiastically through the politico-religious institution which they had founded, claiming the right to the keys of both temporal and spiritual Scotland and doing away with the few monarchical bishops left in Scotland and introducing a monopoly of monarchical elders who saw themselves as the sole voting elite over a lay-proletariat. As they claimed at the Westminster Conference according to Byfield’s Minutes, the Lords words ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name’ referred to the Presbytery only and not the laity.
Even the many pious stories of how Knox died must be taken with a large pinch of salt. Nearly always we are given the famous last words and deeds of a saint so as to emphasise how much we can benefit from his faithful life and dying testimony. There was an appeal recently on a web-site asking for information concerning Knox’s death. Most of the Knox biographies leave the details out so it is not surprising that all the web-site readers knew was that Knox’s wife read the Scriptures to him on his death bed. McCrie, one who has turned the history of the Scottish Reformation quite upside down and has mixed up a Counter Reformation with the true Reformation in Scotland tells us, however, that shortly before Knox’s death, John Durie and Archibald Steward called on their friend, who appeared quite well and in a jovial mood, and they were invited to stay for dinner. McCrie then tells us that Knox:
‘ordered a hogshead (about 52 imperial gallons) of wine which was in his cellar to be pierced for them; and with a hilarity which he delighted to among his friends, desired Archibald Steward to send for some of it as long as it lasted, for he would not tarry until it was all used’.31
The following morning was the Lord’s Day but Knox missed the service having slept in. He felt confused and had forgotten the date and discovered that he had no appetite for breakfast. Suddenly, he took very ill and died. Durie succeeded Knox as minister of St. Giles, Edinburgh around 1573, and held the office until 1579. The Duries were thrust out of power with the revolt in the Church of Scotland instigated by Andrew Melville whose hagiography has been also imaginatively portrayed by McCrie who seems to have taken no steps to examine his own data for credibility.
- McGoldrick’s Luther’s Scottish Connections, p. 7. ↩
- Luther had published little before this date and the universities were exempt from this rule. ↩
- See Reiner Haas‘ Marburg Dissertation Franz Lambert und Patrick Hamilton in ihrer Bedeutung für die evangelische Bewegung auf den Britischen Inseln. ↩
- C. 1350-c. 1422. ↩
- Other authorities give 1408. Rainer Haas gives 1422, p. 62. ↩
- This author first met up with this story in McGoldrick’s Luther’s Scottish Connection, Chapter 3 The Rise of Scottish Protestantism, p. 33 ff. ↩
- Laing, The Works of John Knox, vol. v, p. 5. ↩
- Luther’s Scottish Connection, p. 14 ↩
- The Scottish Presbyterian Polity, A Study of its Origins in the Sixteenth Century by Janet G. Macgregor. This 1926 Ph.D. thesis deals closely with Hamilton. ↩
- A Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs, Commonly Known as ‘The Gude and Godlie Ballatis’, Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1897, p. xvii. ↩
- See Zürich Letters, Second Series: Beza’s letter to Bullinger, p. 131 and Calvin’s letter to Sir William Cecil, p. 35. ↩
- Pages 121-128. ↩
- Lennox, The History of the Reformation in Scotland, London, 1905. P. vi. ↩
- See Livre des Anglois or Register of the English Church at Geneva, (1889?), with facsimilies. ↩
- Knox’s History, p. vii. ↩
- See Lang pp. x-xi, 88, 93, 147, 145. Lang, Chapter XI entitled ‘Knox’s Intrigues and his Account of them’ makes sobering reading. ↩
- See Chapter II, Knox, Wishart, and the Murder of Beaton ↩
- See Lang, ‘Killing no Murder’, p. 17. ↩
- Campbell, Chapter Nine, The Toleration Controversy, p. 114. ↩
- Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: Church and Nation through Sixteen Centuries, 71. ↩
- See Craigie’s The St. Andrews MS of Wyntoun’s Chronicle, Anglia, vol xx, 1898, pp. 363-381. ↩
- See his review of Dickenson’s work in the Innes Review, 1950, 1.2. pp. 158-161. ↩
- The Puritans, p. 274. ↩
- The Puritans, p. 277. ↩
- p. 267. ↩
- p. 275. ↩
- Preface, p. ix-x. ↩
- p. 278. ↩
- Troubles at Frankfurt, p. xvi. ↩
- See Troubles at Frankfurt, pp. 66-69 and Knox’s History vol. iv, pp. 3-68. ↩
- Life of John Knox, 1854 edition, p. 293 ff.p. ↩