The Presbyterian Church was started by Scottish Reformer John Knox, who also laid the theological foundation for the American Revolution.
Scottish-born John Knox studied at the University of St. Andrews. He might have received a priestly ordination from the Roman Catholic Church.
Whatever the specifics of his early upbringing, Knox was a private tutor by 1544. He visited the revolutionary George Wishart at that time, and his attitude about the Roman Mass changed.
Knox, who saw the Mass as an act of idolatry, devoted himself entirely to the Scottish reform movement.
John Knox gained political clout and challenged Catholic religious practices during the reign of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots.
John Calvin’s doctrinal beliefs were followed by Knox’s ideas, which established the moral tone of the Scottish Church and influenced its democratic system of government.
1. Beginning Years of John Knox
He was well renowned for his ferocious sermons, his steadfast stance on religious problems, and his opposition to women in places of authority.
Due to the generally fantastical nature of Knox’s earlier biographers’ tales, much is known about his life after 1540.
Knox studied under the eminent scholar John Major at the University of St. Andrews while preparing for the priesthood. However, Knox did not pursue a master’s degree.
However, he emerged from his education with a mind filled with enthusiasm for abstract thought & rational debate that, even at the time, was widely acknowledged throughout Europe as being typical of Scottish study.
By the time he received priestly orders and was known to be working as a notary in the Haddington region, he was in excellent standing with the clerical establishment.
However, Knox was in the more ambiguous company two years later when he served as a tutor for the sons of two East Lothian gentlemen who were heavily embroiled in Protestant political intrigue.
Under their protection, Scottish Reformation leader George Wishart, who would go on to be an early martyr for the movement, started a preaching tour throughout the Lothians.
Knox spent a lot of time with Wishart, and, as a result of their interactions, Knox underwent a complete transformation to the Reformed religion, which he has treasured ever since.
Knox’s life had a significant change after Wishart’s execution. Beaton was assassinated three months later by Protestant conspirators who had camped up in the castle at St. Andrews.
Meanwhile, Knox was evading arrest and persecution by traveling from one location to another with his students.
He wanted to go to Germany and attend the Protestant universities there, but his employers told him to bring their boys to St. Andrews instead so they could finish their studies under the castle’s watchful eye.
Thus, Knox came to St. Andrews with his students less than a year after the cardinal’s murder, and against his will; he was still an obscure man.
Contrary to his personal preferences, the three months he spent there helped him become the accepted spokesperson & protagonist of the Restoration movement in Scotland.
The Protestants inside the castle were embroiled in a conflict with the university; when some of them learned that a man with unusual gifts had joined them, they began to question their position.
The responsibility of accepting “the public office & charge of preaching” was forced upon Knox’s conscience. Tears were shed as he rejected the summons, and only after much deliberation was, he convinced to deliver a sermon in the town of St. Andrews that won over both supporters and opponents of Scottish Protestantism.
This was the pivotal moment in Knox’s life; from this point forward, he believed that God had called him to preach.
Furthermore, the fact that the call went against all of his personal inclinations made him even more persuaded of its divine origin and impulsion.
The governor of Scotland received support from France. John Knox and other members of St. Andrews Castle capitulated on unreliable terms after being attacked from without and under siege from the plague inside; they were sold as enslaved people in French galleys.
His release was won by English intervention 19 months later, despite his health being irreparably damaged.
If anything, Edward VI’s Protestant authority in England tried to push clergy & people through into reformation more quickly than most people were willing to.
Preachers & propagandists were urgently needed for this program, and since Knox at this time couldn’t come back to Scotland by Roman Catholic rule, the English government quickly selected him for a select corps of licensed preachers and sent him up north to spread the reformation in the unrest-ridden garrison town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
He created a congregation under Puritanical lines, introduced order to the community, & there he met Marjorie Bowes, his future wife.
He received a new job in Newcastle and was soon chosen as one of the 6 royal chaplains, whose responsibilities included traveling to areas in which the regular clergy lacked Protestant ardor and preaching before the court on occasion.
Later, he turned down the bishopric of Rochester & the vicarage of Allhallows in London, but he continued to serve as an itinerant minister while still being supported by the government, primarily but not solely in Buckinghamshire, Kent, & London.
In three ways, Knox made his mark just on the Church of England: he contributed to the formulation of its tenets; he oversaw the introduction of the infamous “black rubric” into The Book of Common Prayer; and, finally, which argues that kneeling during communion does not imply adoration of the elements and denies the corporeal presence of Christ.
He was also one of the leading proponents of English Puritanism, a reformer that emerged within the state church with the goal of more strictly implementing Reformation principles throughout doctrine & worship.
2. Head of The Leaders
Knox was one of the few remaining Protestant leaders to leave the land following Mary Tudor’s coronation as a Roman Catholic.
The revelation that the future of “true religion” in England depended on the religious beliefs of one lady worried him, and he fled to the Continent.
If a sovereign’s whim was allowed to choose a country’s religion, he could see no protection for the reformation anywhere.
Could it not be justified for Protestant subjects in such a situation to oppose the corruption of their faith by a Roman Catholic king, even if it means using force?
God-fearing magistrates & nobility have the right & the duty to confront, if necessary through force, a ruler that threatens the safety of genuine religion, according to Knox’s catastrophic conclusion, which would subsequently be applied in Scotland.
Knox’s Faithful Admonition towards the Protestants that remained in England, the pain of the people it was addressed to was made worse by its fanaticism and foul language. Given that it came from a person who was relatively safe, it alienated many people in England from him.
On John Calvin’s request, Knox was appointed minister of an English immigrant church in Frankfurt am Main that same year; however, he only served there for a brief period of time.
This pastorate continued until his eventual return to Scotland, but it was briefly interrupted by a trip to Berwick and a nine-month stay in Scotland, during which he wed Marjorie Bowes.
She perished after giving birth to his two kids. The advancement of the Reformed cause & the eagerness of the people in Edinburgh startled Knox.
3. The Reformed Christ Jesus Church’s Formation
The First Book of Discipline, which contains recommendations for the structure and funding of the Reformed Church, was presented to the Scottish Parliament by Knox with the assistance of a committee of renowned churchmen.
The Book of Common Order (also known as Knox’s Liturgy), which established congregational governance through elders chosen by the membership each year, was to govern worship.
In contrast to being selected only after a thorough review of their life and teaching by their ministerial brethren, ministers were going to be elected by the people.
The most competent ministers were to be elected superintendents of regions that nearly matched the ancient dioceses; provincial synods of ministers & elders were to support them as they oversaw the congregations and pastors in the region.
The core of later Presbyterianism is contained in Knox’s system, where the laity is given a strong position.
The Book of Discipline then goes on to describe a very complex educational program and makes plans for a desperately needed program of methodical aid to the needy.
Finally, it recommends that the old church’s endowments be made accessible for the financing of these admittedly expensive new church plans. The initiatives, however, hit a financial wall and crumbled.
The old church’s endowments were stolen by the nobles, who had little sympathy for Knox’s “devout imaginings” in an impoverished country.
The remaining Roman Catholic clergy was given the life-rent of their benefices by Parliament as a temporary solution to the financial crisis, provided they used their income to support the Reformed Church.
The forced abandonment of Knox’s plans for poor relief and education, as well as the lack of funding for the Reformed Church, left him unhappy.
4. Role of Queen Mary
Mary came to Scotland, already certain that Knox would be her sworn adversary and that Scotland could not support both of them.
Initially hoping that the new Queen would prove malleable, Knox quickly came to the same conclusion. His first three meetings with Mary were cordial scuffles; the fourth was the start of a grimly serious war.
Knox alerted the Protestant community when he learned that Mary was considering wedlock with Don Carlos of Spain, a union that would have been catastrophic for the Scottish Reformation & perhaps also for England.
Mary was furious with Knox’s interference in government issues as a heretic preacher & commoner, and she yelled at him incoherently and accused him of treason, but the Privy Council declined to punish him.
Knox filled Mary’s cup with bitterness by marrying Margaret Stewart without the Queen’s consent.
Mary fired her Protestant advisors and started handling her own affairs poorly. The Reformed Church faced serious threats for a while, but Knox’s old ally James Stewart, Earl of Moray, took over as regent after Mary’s collapse and abdication.
He would have been a strong ally for the Reformed Church, but he was assassinated, and the kingdom descended into a civil war between the Queen’s and the regency’s followers.
Knox took part in the chaos, but he had a paralytic stroke. Scotland was informed about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of French Protestants.
In St. Giles’ Church, Knox dragged himself to the pulpit and emphasized the tragedy’s lesson. To present his successor, he took one final position in the St. Giles’s pulpit.
5. Legacy of John Knox and The Scottish Reformation
Knox was a divisive character, and men with different political and theological beliefs will always evaluate his influence differently.
The Reformed Church in Scotland has unquestionably founded on his conviction that Reformation was God’s cause and must succeed—a conviction he had a remarkable ability to impress upon other people.
His ability to combine logic and emotion & to be a passionate rationalist on the pulpit was what made him so effective as a preacher.
He was obviously intolerant, but his Calvinism was much more moderate than that of following generations.
His private letters show unexpected compassion, and he was more restrained in conduct than in voice.
Respect must be shown for his unwavering, enduring, and unwavering dedication to what he saw to be his duty. His moral life was consistent with his strict doctrine, as shown by a wealth of historical evidence.
6. John Knox and Mary Queen
Both Knox & Mary Queen of Scots were attempting to patch up a husband & wife whose separation had become the most popular piece of celebrity rumor at the time.
One of the Queen’s ladies at court was Jane Stewart, Countess of Argyll, who was also her half-sister. She was married to the fifth earl of Argyll, Archibald Campbell, who was a famous Scottish Protestant and the patriarch of the Campbell family.
The earl would be tackled by the preacher, while Mary would take care of her sibling, as agreed upon by Knox and the Queen.
This unusual team of relationship counselors had some success despite using distinct approaches.
Knox had demonstrated to his own pleasure that the mere existence of a ruling monarch Queen was a violation of the natural and divine order of the world in his classic tract The First Boom of the Trumpet against the terrible regiment of women.
This assumption was made in addition to the gender issue. When given a chance, he was certain that both the mother and the daughter would support the Roman Catholic Church & begin a systematic persecution of Protestants in Scotland.
Given his mentality, it was predictable that Knox & Mary Queen of Scots could not agree on matters of politics and religion.
Strangely, Knox missed the crises that brought an end to the Queen’s personal authority because he was out of Scotland and later out of Edinburgh.
After Mary was released from Lochleven Castle prison, Knox joined the chorus of those who were denouncing her as an adulteress & murderess.
He probably had an “I told you so” moment since his prediction that female rule would be disastrous seems to have come true.
Knox’s opinions and interactions with the Scottish Queen, however, were unusual for his interactions with women.
7. Knox’s Relationship with Queen Mary
John Knox’s relationship with Mary, Queen of Scots, was influenced by both her religion—she was a Catholic monarch overseeing an increasingly Protestant nation—and his ideas on women in leadership roles.
Mary attempted to reach an understanding with Knox during their numerous meetings, but he rejected her. Knox demanded Mary be put to death and backed her son James VI of Scotland as the next monarch when she was detained.
Until his natural death in Edinburgh, Knox remained active in politics, working to align the Scottish monarchy with his understanding of Christianity. The Scottish authorities depended on France as an ally against the English before the Reformation in Scotland.
However, after Knox was able to create the Protestant Church of Scotland, Protestant England was viewed as a friend and Catholic France (as well as Spain) as a threat.
Knox is acknowledged as one of the most significant players, if not the most significant, in laying the groundwork for the Union Acts of England & Scotland, the start of the United Kingdom.
In 1603, James VI would become James I of England, uniting Protestant Scotland & England.
Knox established his church as just a presbytery, a group of elders who made decisions that were carried out with the support of deacons and ministers.
Knox opposed the Anglican organizational hierarchy of archbishops & priests. The Presbyterian Church of Scotland had been a democratic institution with full rights to vote for all elders in good standing and no single figure in control.
Knox’s wife Margery passed away while he was setting up the church, leaving him to care for his two kids, Nathaniel & Eleazar, whose lives at this point in history are veiled by Knox’s long dispute with Mary, Queen of Scots.
Despite being a Catholic ruler, Mary declared when she landed in Scotland that she would not force her religion on her subjects. She urged Protestant ministers to maintain religious tolerance, and most of them complied.
However, Knox refused to make concessions, stating that there was only one genuine faith and that believers must not tolerate the false doctrines of Catholics while preaching at the High Kirk of Edinburgh, formerly known as St. Giles Cathedral.
In an effort to enlist Knox’s assistance in controlling Scotland peacefully, Mary called him before her on several occasions.
However, each time, Knox stated clearly that he’d keep preaching the truth even though he understood it and that no monarch had the right to control how the Bible was interpreted or what was said in sermons based on it.
Many modern researchers and authors have viewed Knox’s refusal to make any compromises or concessions throughout her reign as an admirable quality in a committed Christian pastor.
But if he had been able to understand the need for religious tolerance, he might have been able to stop the bloodshed and destruction that the Reformation in Scotland came to be known for.
Knox demanded Mary be executed and backed her son James VI as the successor when she was detained and held captive in Loch Leven Castle.
Today, it is possible to view the ruins of a number of Catholic monasteries, convents, & churches throughout Scotland, including in the Highlands, whose destruction can be linked to Knox’s reign.
However, researchers who view him as a key figure in building the groundwork for the UK by making Scotland a Protestant nation frequently ignore the violence he incited through his sermons.
In the years since his passing, Knox’s reputation has only grown more contentious. He was divisive throughout his lifetime.
The conflicting nature of Knox continues to influence how his legacy is interpreted; while some attribute to him the establishment of democratic principles throughout his church that could later impact the Forefathers of the United States, others point out how his reforms led to the dramatic erosion of women’s rights in Scotland, particularly in the area of education.
Although he is still regarded as one of the Protestant Reformation’s most effective and convincing activists, there is still disagreement over how to interpret his legacy and what it even entails.