Knox and his Doctrine

 Knox did not mince his words when he denounced the Church of Rome as Antichrist and proposed nothing less than a reconstruction of the doctrines and ecclesiastical system of Scotland. As a student of John Calvin  in Geneva he, like the other Protestant Reformers, held to three main principles.

  •  God had spoken to man through the Scriptures and that God managed man through the Scriptures. The Word of God was a living Word and beliefs and church practices must conform to that essential truth.

  • Salvation  was by the free and undeserved  grace of Christ, sometimes called the `justification by faith alone`. Man was saved by the action of God alone, in the death and resurrection of Christ, and was called from sin to a new life in Christ.

  • There was no role for a priest as mediator; there was nothing supporting this in the Scriptures. There was one gospel, one justification by faith and one status before God common to all men regardless of class.

Knox was summoned to appear before the Black Friars in Edinburgh on 15 May 1556. He came to Edinburgh with Erskine of Dun , but the meeting did not take place for some reason. When Knox departed Scotland in July 1556 to go to Geneva, the priests renewed the summons against him ; when (of course) he did not appear, they passed sentence on him, adjudged his body to the flames and his soul to damnation. With execution and excommunication passed against him they further burnt an effigy of him at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. Knox`s Appellation is a substantial document to the nobility and Estates of Scotland appealing against the unjust sentence passed upon him The document is a statement of his doctrine as well as a rebuttal of the charges made against him.

 Knox`s dictum about speaking out against false doctrine, is cited in A Hind Let Loose and casts a light on his often alleged intransigence and his rough words to Mary Queen of Scots.

 Yea we must speak the truth, whomsoever we offend, there is no realm that hath the like Purity; for all others, how sincere soever the doctrine be, retain in their churches and the ministry thereof, some footsteps of antichrist, and dregs of popery; but we (praise to God alone) have nothing in our churches, that ever flowed from the Man of Sin. 

The Rev  William Watson in his Morals of the Scottish Clergy explains of the reformers and martyrs

" They were not all naturally courageous. Even John Knox confessed  that he was by nature a fearful and timid man. But their belief in God , in the righteousness of their cause, and in a blessed future life gave them strength to endure and overcome. If God was on their side , and they never for a moment doubted  that He was, they had no reason to fear what men might do unto them. Their destinies were in the hands of Him whose glory they sought to promote."

 The Calvinist doctrines followed by Knox included rejection of the Pope, the Church of Rome and all its trappings - the mass, the claim of transubstantiation during the Communion, church music, architecture, images, holy water, candles etc. He held firmly to the principle that in the Church of Christ, and especially in worship, everything ought to be arranged and conducted, not by pleasure and appointment of man, but according to the dictates of inspired wisdom and authority. Knox also adopted the principle of organising the church both internally and externally, and produced  his Confessions of Faith (1560) , the Book of Discipline (1561) and a new liturgy , the Book of Common Order (1564).

 To achieve his aims Knox wisely sought and received the support of the most powerful men in Scotland the `Lords of the Congregation`. His doctrines were accepted by the Earl of Argyll and the Earl of Moray (Lord Lorne and Lord James at the time), and the Lord Glencairn, and the Earl Marischal (who famously tried to get the Catholic Mary of Guise, the Queen Regent, to hear a sermon - which she scorned). The support of these powerful nobles meant that Knox`s voice had to be listened to by the Regents who ruled Scotland at this critical time, and thereby enabled a firm  foothold to be gained  for Presbyterianism.

The sacking of the monasteries was a violent end to the outward image of papacy and was founded on antipathy to graven images and idolatry. Knox himself defined idolatry in the First Book of Discipline and is quite far reaching in its generality:

"By idolatry we understand the mass, invocation of saints, adoration of images, and the keeping  and retaining of the same; and finally all honouring of God, not contained  in His Holy Word."

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