JOHN KNOX was born in 1505, in Scotland. To remember the date of his birth, connect his name with that of Henry VIII. of England, who began to reign when Knox was three years old.....Connect different characters in history together. Knox was born of Roman Catholic parents, and though from the time he began to study the writings of the "fathers" of the Church especially Jerome and Augustine he suspected all was not right with the Roman doctrines, yet he did not profess himself a Protestant till 1542, or when he was thirty seven. You have called yourself a Protestant all your life, no doubt, hardly thinking what the word means; but Knox knew very well what was involved in declaring that he protested against the errors and superstitions of the Romish Church. He saw friends put to death for the new cause, and at last, with a party of these protesters, he had to take refuge in the castle of St. Andrews, where he acted as one of the chaplains of the garrison, and preached so earnestly that a great many who were "almost persuaded" decided to stand by the new way of belief, and join the Reformers, unpopular as they were.

After a year's siege, the party in the castle were starved out, and their enemies promised that their lives should be spared and they should only be obliged to leave Scotland. 

But the promises were broken; some of them were made close prisoners, while Knox and others were loaded with chains, and made to work as galley slaves. Not one of them, though, would renounce his faith. Knox was so broken down by his hardships that he was ill with fever, and his life despaired of; but God had a work for him to do, and after nineteen months he was set at liberty, in February, 1549. Edward VI., the boy-king, was then reigning in England, and as he was a liberal-minded king, who sincerely desired to do right, Knox went straight to London. He preached so boldly that the bishops were afraid, for though they were not Romanists, they were not quite sure as to being Protestants. King Edward liked his zeal and honesty so well that he was appointed one of the King's chaplains, and helped to make some important corrections in the Book of Common Prayer. The king liked him so much that he even tried to make a bishop of him, but Knox said he did not approve of bishoprics, so he remained plain John Knox. The good young king died when only eighteen years of age, and the future looked so dark for the Protestants that many of them went to France and Switzerland.  Knox lived for some time at Geneva, where he became the friend of another grand man, John Calvin. 

At Geneva, though Knox was fifty years old, he set to work to learn Hebrew, as he had never had the opportunity when young. A number of the exiles who lived at Frankfort, in Germany, asked Knox to come and be their minister, and though he disliked leaving his quiet study in Geneva, he went and preached faithfully; but as part were Episcopalians and part Presbyterians, and both parties wanted things their own way, KNOX left them and went back to Geneva, where he stayed with his friends for a few months, till an earnest call came from Scotland for his help. He spent a year in Scotland, preaching day after day.

At that time the Scottish Protestants first entered into a covenant to stand true to the new cause. His friends at Geneva called him back to be one of the pastors of the English congregation, and there he stayed for three years, when Scotland needed him so much that he said "Good-by" forever to his kind Swiss friends, and the English exiles, and went back to his native land, though men and women were being burned at the stake in both England and Scotland under the reign of "Bloody Mary." For years, Scotland had been ruled by a regent, but in 1561 poor Mary ("Queen of Scots," as she is called) came back from France to rule her people. She sent for the bold Reformer, John Knox, almost as soon as she landed. But though she, like Felix of old, trembled and was almost persuaded, he never succeeded in convincing her of the truth.

From this time John Knox preached at the church of St. Giles, Edinburgh, traveling back and forth wherever he could do the most good. He made it “his habit" to preach "twice on Sundays and thrice on other days of the week."  Was not that work? Remember that Queen Elizabeth was now reigning in England, and in 1587 she beheaded her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox lived five years longer, but he was very feeble after 1570, when he had a slight stroke of apoplexy.

Now, as to his looks. He was a small man with a feeble body, which had been wasted by various hardships (the nineteen months as a galley slave among others) and by hard mental work. His natural gifts were good, and he improved them by study. He was particularly eloquent, and though most people seem to think of him as stern and hard, he enjoyed fun, and was tender and kind to women and children. We must remember that he lived in times that required great energy and decision. If you hear Knox spoken of as "narrow" and "bigoted," keep in mind that he had to contend for the truth against the fiercest persecutors and the most obstinate enemies of the true religion. 

We who reap the fruits of his life of struggle should not judge him, but honor and revere him.

Besides all his preaching and traveling, John Knox wrote a Historie of the Reformation of Religion within the Realm of Scotland, and several smaller works. He was twice married; his first wife was an English lady who died after a few years, leaving him two young sons. His second wife was a descendant of King Robert the Second of Scotland; she had three daughters, and outlived her husband.

Have I made it very clear to you that John Knox lived in the time of Henry VIII., Edward VI., Bloody Mary, and Elisabeth? That he lived a part of the time abroad? And will you try to remember his earnest work? 

We cannot all be great public reformers, but let us each begin at once with our own lives and reform whatever we see amiss there, and then, if there is any public work to be done, we shall be pure and strong to do it. 

Hope Ledyard, 

in S. S. Visitor