John Knox (1505-1572)
John Knox had great qualities which were needed in the perilous times in which he lived. He could not save his friend Wishart from being martyred by Cardinal Beaton. He was himself a galley-slave on a French ship because of the treachery of Roman Catholic negotiators going back on their word.
He was a brave and conscientious soldier of Christ. He was always sincere and unselfish in all he said and did. From first to last he pursued the same straight, unswerving course. He stood firm amid the extraordinary events in which, by the Providence and grace of God, he played such a conspicuous and heroic part.
He saw through the inherent deceitfulness and corruptions of Rome. He hated Popery with a “perfect hatred” [Psalm 139:22: see his interpretation of this verse in his “Epistle to the Afflicted Church of Christ” during Queen “bloody” Mary's reign]. He regarded Mary, Queen of Scots and her Regent mother as Rome's chief protagonists working to enslave the Scots to Rome again. He opposed their hypocrisies with a courage that was all the more effective because it was grounded on the Word of God. On matters of faith he would criticize the highest in the land and he would not hesitate to do so face to face.
Of his honesty and straightforwardness there can be no doubt. His hands were clean of bribes. He did not grow rich by the spoils of the Reformation. He was content to live and die the minister of St Giles. Is not such a Reformer, uncompromising though he was when the Reformation was endangered, to be venerated far above those duplicitous timeservers of Rome and a monarch brought up in France to hate the very name Protestant? Does he not also stand out in pleasing contrast to those grasping barons with whom he was associated, some of whom hated priests because they coveted their corn-fields, and then disgraced the Reformation they professed to support by their feuds and assassinations?
Let his trusty servant, Richard Ballantyne, have the last word after Knox's illness and death:
Of this manner departed this man of God, the light of Scotland, the comfort of the Kirk within the same, the mirror of Godliness, and a patron and example to all true ministers, in purity of life, soundness in doctrine, and boldness in reproving of wickedness; and one that cared not the favour of men (how great soever they were), to reprove their abuses and sins.....What dexterity in teaching, boldness in reproving, and hatred of wickedness was in him, my ignorant dullness is not able to declare.