As well as modeling the Church in Scotland, John Knox laid the foundation of an extraordinary forward-looking new state—way ahead of the time in such matters as education, social welfare, and democracy. The Reformation had its effect in all spheres of national life. Knox roused the common man to a sense of his true dignity. He said, “Before God all men are equal. In matters of religion God requires no less of the subject, be he ever so poor, than of the prince and the rich man.”
Educationally, the Reformation gave a great impetus to literacy as the common people learned to read the Bible for themselves. Knox brought forward the first comprehensive scheme of national education, where every parish would have a schoolmaster and every notable town a college, and where the children of the poor would have their education free. The importance of education became a basic characteristic of the Scots both at home and abroad.
“The real and effective evangelization of Scotland began with Columba, who emigrated from Ireland to Argyll, accompanied by his disciples, in ad 563, and set up his base in the island of Iona. The Celtic Church, to which he belonged, was Bible-centred and missionary-minded. It spread its influence into England and it is said that the mission stemming from Iona extended itself in a generation or so ‘from the shores of the Forth to the banks of the Thames’. It was an autonomous self-governing body of Christian people.” (Page 14)
“In the last extant document that he notarized, dated 17 March 1543, one finds an interesting attestation: Testis per Christum fidelis, cui gloria (a faithful witness to Christ, to whom be the glory). These words may indicate that he had by then become a Protestant. It was in that same year that the Bible was allowed to be used in Scotland.” (Pages 20–21)
“John Calvin’s view was that at the very centre of the Roman Church was a form of Christianized idolatry.” (Page 14)
“He had come to hate and fear Roman Catholicism not only because he had suffered under the slave driver’s lash for his Protestant beliefs but because he believed it destroyed men’s souls by its idolatry. He was out to destroy it as the children of Israel were to bring down Jericho when they blew the trumpets around the walls of the city.” (Page 34)
“It was during this period that he worked out his theory of ‘a godly revolution’ which was to bear much fruit over the centuries.” (Page 49)
This short biography is the ‘essential’ John Knox with all his passion, power, and devotion to Christ. It is Knox at his pithy best without the frills and distractions. We are all indebted to John J. Murray for distilling the Scots Reformer into an intoxicating elixir. This appetizer that will no doubt tantalize readers to further feast on the whole of the life and works of John Knox.
—Dale Walden Johnson, professor of church history, Erskine Theological Seminary
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