Knox's Writings from Abroad: Beginning of the Scottish Revolution, 1556-1558
Knox was about this time summoned to be one of the preachers to the English at Geneva. He sent in advance Mrs. Bowes and his wife, visited Argyll and Glenorchy (now Breadalbane), wrote (July 7) an epistle bidding the brethren be diligent in reading and discussing the Bible, and went abroad. His effigy was presently burned by the clergy, as he had not appeared in answer to a second summons, and he was outlawed in absence.

It is not apparent that Knox took any part in the English translation of the Bible, then being executed at Geneva. Greek and Hebrew were not his forte, though he had now some knowledge of both tongues, but he preached to the men who did the work. The perfections of Genevan Church discipline delighted him. "Manners and religion so sincerely reformed I have not yet seen in any other place." The genius of Calvin had made Geneva a kind of Protestant city state [Greek text]; a Calvinistic Utopia -- everywhere the vigilant eyes of the preachers and magistrates were upon every detail of daily life. Monthly and weekly the magistrates and ministers met to point out each other's little failings. Knox felt as if he were indeed in the City of God, and later he introduced into Scotland, and vehemently abjured England to adopt, the Genevan "discipline." England would none of it, and would not, even in the days of the Solemn League and Covenant, suffer the excommunication by preachers to pass without lay control.

It is unfortunate that the ecclesiastical polity and discipline of a small city state, like a Greek [Greek word polis], feasible in such a community as Geneva at a moment of spiritual excitement, was brought by Knox and his brethren into a nation like Scotland. The results were a hundred and twenty-nine years of unrest, civil war, and persecution.

Though happy in the affection of his wife and Mrs. Bowes, Knox, at this time, needed more of feminine society. On November 19, 1556, he wrote to his friend, Mrs. Locke, wife of a Cheapside merchant: "You write that your desire is earnest to see me. Dear sister, if I should express the thirst and languor which I have had for your presence, I should appear to pass measure. . . . Your presence is so dear to me that if the charge of this little flock . . . did not impede me, my presence should anticipate my letter." Thus Knox was ready to brave the fires of Smithfield, or, perhaps, forgot them for the moment in his affection for Mrs. Locke. He writes to no other woman in this fervid strain. On May 8, 1557, Mrs. Locke with her son and daughter (who died after her journey), joined Knox at Geneva. {73}

He was soon to be involved in Scottish affairs. After his departure from his country, omens and prodigies had ensued. A comet appeared in November-December 1556. Next year some corn-stacks were destroyed by lightning. Worse, a calf with two heads was born, and was exhibited as a warning to Mary of Guise by Robert Ormistoun. The idolatress merely sneered, and said "it was but a common thing." Such a woman was incorrigible. Mary of Guise is always blamed for endangering Scotland in the interests of her family, the Guises of the House of Lorraine. In fact, so far as she tried to make Scotland a province of France, she was serving the ambition of Henri II. It could not be foreseen, in 1555, that Henri II. would be slain in 1559, leaving the two kingdoms in the hands of Francis II. and Mary Stuart, who were so young, that they would inevitably be ruled by the Queen's uncles of the House of Lorraine. Shortly before Knox arrived in Scotland in 1555, the Duc de Guise had advised the Regent to "use sweetness and moderation," as better than "extremity and rigour"; advice which she acted on gladly.

Unluckily the war between France and Spain, in 1557, brought English troops into collision with French forces in the Low Countries (Philip II. being king of England); this led to complications between Scotland, as ally of France, and the English on the Borders. Border raids began; d'Oysel fortified Eyemouth, as a counterpoise to Berwick, war was declared in November, and the discontented Scots, such as Chatelherault, Huntly, Cassilis, and Argyll, mutinied and refused to cross Tweed. {74} Thus arose a breach between the Regent and some of her nobles, who at last, in 1559, rebelled against her on the ground of religion. While the weak war languished on, in 1557-58, "the Evangel of Jesus Christ began wondrously to flourish," says Knox. Other evangelists of his pattern, Harlaw, Douglas, Willock, and a baker, Methuen (later a victim of the intolerably cruel "discipline" of the Kirk Triumphant), preached at Dundee, and Methuen started a reformed Kirk (though not without being declared rebels at the horn). When these persons preached, their hearers were apt to raise riots, wreck churches, and destroy works of sacred art. No Government could for ever wink at such lawless actions, and it was because the pulpiteers, Methuen, Willock, Douglas, and the rest, were again "put at," after being often suffered to go free, that the final crash came, and the Reformation began in the wrack and ruin of monasteries and churches.

There was drawing on another thunder-cloud. The policy of Mary of Guise certainly tended to make Scotland a mere province of France, a province infested by French forces, slender, but ill-paid and predacious. Before marrying the Dauphin, in April 1558, Mary Stuart, urged it is said by the Guises, signed away the independence of her country, to which her husband, by these deeds, was to succeed if she died without issue. Young as she was, Mary was perfectly able to understand the infamy of the transaction, and probably was not so careless as to sign the deeds unread.

Even before this secret treaty was drafted, on March 10, 1557, Glencairn, Lorne, Erskine, and the Prior of St. Andrews -- best known to us in after years as James Stewart, Earl of Moray -- informed Knox that no "cruelty" by way of persecution was being practised; that his presence was desired, and that they were ready to jeopard their lives and goods for the cause. The rest would be told to Knox by the bearer of the letter. Knox received the letter in May 1557, with verbal reports by the bearers, but was so far from hasty that he did not leave Geneva till the end of September, and did not reach Dieppe on his way to Scotland till October 24. Three days later he wrote to the nobles who had summoned him seven months earlier. He had received, he said, at Dieppe two private letters of a discouraging sort; one correspondent said that the enterprise was to be reconsidered, the other that the boldness and constancy required "for such an enterprise" were lacking among the nobles. Meanwhile Knox had spent his time, or some of it, in asking the most godly and the most learned of Europe, including Calvin, for opinions of such an adventure, for the assurance of his own conscience and the consciences of the Lord James, Erskine, Lorne, and the rest. {76a} This indicates that Knox himself was not quite sure of the lawfulness of an armed rising, and perhaps explains his long delay. Knox assures us that Calvin and other godly ministers insisted on his going to Scotland. But it is quite certain that of an armed rising Calvin absolutely disapproved. On April 16, 1561, writing to Coligny, Calvin says that he was consulted several months before the tumult of Amboise (March 1560) and absolutely discouraged the appeal to arms. "Better that we all perish a hundred times than that the name of Christianity and the Gospel should come under such disgrace." {76b} If Calvin bade Knox go to Scotland, he must have supposed that no rebellion was intended. Knox tells his correspondents that they have betrayed themselves and their posterity ("in conscience I can except none that bear the name of nobility"), they have made him and their own enterprise ridiculous, and they have put him to great trouble. What is he to say when he returns to Geneva, and is asked why he did not carry out his purpose? He then encourages them to be resolute.

Knox "certainly made the most," says Professor Hume Brown, "of the two letters from correspondents unknown to us." He at once represented them as the cause of his failure to keep tryst; but, in April 1558, writing from Geneva to "the sisters," he said, "the cause of my stop to this day I do not clearly understand." He did not know why he left England before the Marian persecutions; and he did not know why he had not crossed over to Scotland in 1557. "It may be that God justly permitted Sathan to put in my mind such cogitations as these: I heard such troubles as appeared in that realm;" -- troubles presently to be described.

Hearing, at Dieppe, then, in October 1557, of the troubles, and of the faint war with England, and moved, perhaps, he suggests, by Satan, {77a} Knox "began to dispute with himself, as followeth, 'Shall Christ, the author of peace, concord, and quietness, be preached where war is proclaimed, and tumults appear to rise? What comfort canst thou have to see the one part of the people rise up against the other,'" and so forth. These truly Christian reflections, as we may think them, "yet do trouble and move my wicked heart," says Knox. He adds, hypothetically, that perhaps the letters received at Dieppe "did somewhat discourage me." {77b} He was only certain that the devil was at the bottom of the whole affair.

The "tumults that appear to arise" are probably the dissensions between the Regent and the mutinous nobles who refused to invade England at her command. D'Oysel needed a bodyguard; and he feared that the Lords would seize and carry off the Regent. Arran, in 1564, speaks of a plot to capture her in Holyrood. Here were promises of tumults. There were also signs of a renewed feud between the house of Hamilton and the Stewart Earl of Lennox, the rival claimant of the crown. There seems, moreover, to have been some tumultuary image-breaking. {78}

Knox may have been merely timid: he is not certain, but his delay passed in consulting the learned, for the satisfaction of his conscience, and his confessed doubts as to whether Christianity should be pushed by civil war, seem to indicate that he was not always the prophet patron of modern Jehus, that he did, occasionally, consult the Gospel as well as the records of pre-Christian Israel.

The general result was that, from October 1557 to March 1558, Knox stayed in Dieppe, preaching with great success, raising up a Protestant church, and writing.

His condition of mind was unenviable. He had been brought all the way across France, leaving his wife and family; he had, it seems, been met by no letters from his noble friends, who may well have ceased to expect him, so long was his delay. He was not at ease in his conscience, for, to be plain, he was not sure that he was not afraid to risk himself in Scotland, and he was not certain that his new scruples about the justifiableness of a rising for religion were not the excuses suggested by his own timidity. Perhaps they were just that, not whisperings either of conscience or of Satan. Yet in this condition Knox was extremely active. On December 1 and 17 he wrote, from Dieppe, a "Letter to His Brethren in Scotland," and another to "The Lords and Others Professing the Truth in Scotland." In the former he censures, as well he might, "the dissolute life of (some) such as have professed Christ's holy Evangel." That is no argument, he says, against Protestantism. Many Turks are virtuous; many orthodox Hebrews, Saints, and Patriarchs occasionally slipped; the Corinthians, though of a "trew Kirk," were notoriously profligate. Meanwhile union and virtue are especially desirable; for Satan "fiercely stirreth his terrible tail." We do not know what back-slidings of the brethren prompted this letter.

The Lords, in the other letter, are reminded that they had resolved to hazard life, rank, and fortune for the delivery of the brethren: the first step must be to achieve a godly frame of mind. Knox hears rumours "that contradiction and rebellion is made by some to the Authority" in Scotland. He advises "that none do suddenly disobey or displease the established authority in things lawful," nor rebel from private motives. By "things lawful" does he mean the command of the Regent to invade England, which the nobles refused to do? They may "lawfully attempt the extremity," if Authority will not cease to persecute, and permit Protestant preaching and administration of the Sacraments (which usually ended in riot and church-wrecking). Above all, they are not to back the Hamiltons, whose chief, Chatelherault, had been a professor, had fallen back, and become a persecutor. "Flee all confederacy with that generation," the Hamiltons; with whom, after all, Knox was presently to be allied, though by no means fully believing in the "unfeigned and speedy repentance" of their chief. {80a}

All the movements of that time are not very clear. Apparently Lorne, Lord James, and the rest, in their letter of March 10, 1557, intended an armed rising: they were "ready to jeopardise lives and goods" for "the glory of God." If no more than an appeal to "the Authority" for tolerance was meant, why did Knox consult the learned so long, on the question of conscience? Yet, in December 1557, he bids his allies first of all seek the favour of "the Authority," for bare toleration of Protestantism.

From the scheme of March 10, of which the details, unknown to us, were orally delivered by bearer, he appears to have expected civil war.

Again, just when Knox was writing to Scotland in December 1557, his allies there, he says, made "a common Band," a confederacy and covenant such as the Scots usually drew up before a murder, as of Riccio or Darnley, or for slaying Argyll and "the bonny Earl o' Murray," under James VI. These Bands were illegal. A Band, says Knox, was now signed by Argyll, Lorne, Glencairn, Morton, and Erskine of Dun, and many others unknown, on December 3, 1557. It is alleged that "Satan cruelly doth rage." Now, how was Satan raging in December 1557? Myln, the last martyr, was not pursued till April 1558, by Knox's account.

The first godly Band being of December 1557, {80b} and drawn up, perhaps, on the impulse of Knox's severe letter from Dieppe of October 27, in that year; just after they signed the Band, what were the demands of the Banders? They asked, apparently, that the Second Prayer Book of Edward VI. should be read in all parish churches, with the Lessons: if the curates are able to read: if not, then by any qualified parishioner. Secondly, preaching must be permitted in private houses, "without great conventions of the people." {81a} Whether the Catholic service was to be concurrently permitted does not appear; it is not very probable, for that service is idolatrous, and the Band itself denounces the Church as "the Congregation of Satan." Dr. M'Crie thinks that the Banders, or Congregation of God, did not ask for the universal adoption of the English Prayer Book, but only requested that they themselves might bring it in "in places to which their authority and influence extended." They took that liberty, certainly, without waiting for leave, but their demand appears to apply to all parish churches. War, in fact, was denounced against Satan's Congregation; {81b} if it troubles the Lords' Congregation, there could therefore be little idea of tolerating their nefarious creed and ritual.

Probably Knox, at Dieppe in 1557 and early in 1558, did not know about the promising Band made in Scotland. He was composing his "First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women." In England and in Scotland were a Catholic Queen, a Catholic Queen Mother, and the Queen of Scotland was marrying the idolatrous Dauphin. It is not worth while to study Knox's general denunciation of government by ladies: he allowed that (as Calvin suggested) miraculous exceptions to their inability might occur, as in the case of Deborah. As a rule, a Queen was an "idol," and that was enough. England deserved an idol, and an idolatrous idol, for Englishmen rejected Kirk discipline; "no man would have his life called in trial" by presbyter or preacher. A Queen regnant has, ex officio, committed treason against God: the Realm and Estates may have conspired with her, but her rule is unlawful. Naturally this skirl on the trumpet made Knox odious to Elizabeth, for to impeach her succession might cause a renewal of the wars of the Roses. Nothing less could have happened, if a large portion of the English people had believed in the Prophet of God, John Knox. He could predict vengeance on Mary Tudor, but could not see that, as Elizabeth would succeed, his Blast would bring inconvenience to his cause; or, seeing it, he stood to his guns.

He presently reprinted and added to his letter to Mary of Guise, arguing that civil magistrates have authority in religion, but, of course, he must mean only as far as they carry out his ideas, which are the truth. In an "Appellation" against the condemnation of himself, in absence, by the Scottish clergy, he labours the same idea. Moreover, "no idolater can be exempted from punishment by God's law." Now the Queen of Scotland happened to be an idolater, and every true believer, as a private individual, has a right to punish idolaters. That right and duty are not limited to the King, or to "the chief Nobility and Estates," whom Knox addresses. "I would your Honours should note for the first, that no idolater can be exempted from punishment by God's Law. The second is, that the punishment of such crimes as are idolatry, blasphemy, and others, that touch the Majesty of God, doth not appertain to kings and chief rulers only" (as he had argued that they do, in 1554), "but also to the whole body of that people, and to every member of the same, according to the vocation of every man, and according to that possibility and occasion which God doth minister to revenge the injury done against His glory, what time that impiety is manifestly known. . . . Who dare be so impudent as to deny this to be most reasonable and just?" {83}

Knox's method of argument for his doctrine is to take, among other texts, Deuteronomy xiii.12-18, and apply the sanguinary precepts of Hebrew fanatics to the then existing state of affairs in the Church Christian. Thus, in Deuteronomy, cities which serve "other gods," or welcome missionaries of other religions, are to be burned, and every living thing in them is to be destroyed. "To the carnal man, . . . " says Knox, "this may rather seem to be pronounced in a rage than in wisdom." God wills, however, that "all creatures stoop, cover their faces, and desist from reasoning, when commandment is given to execute his judgement." Knox, then, desists from reasoning so far as to preach that every Protestant, with a call that way, has a right to punish any Catholic, if he gets a good opportunity. This doctrine he publishes to his own countrymen. Thus any fanatic who believed in the prophet Knox, and was conscious of a "vocation," might, and should, avenge God's wrongs on Mary of Guise or Mary Stuart, "he had a fair opportunity, for both ladies were idolaters. This is a plain inference from the passage just cited.

Appealing to the Commonalty of Scotland, Knox next asked that he might come and justify his doctrine, and prove Popery "abominable before God." Now, could any Government admit a man who published the tidings that any member of a State might avenge God on an idolater, the Queen being, according to him, an idolater? This doctrine of the right of the Protestant individual is merely monstrous. Knox has wandered far from his counsel of "passive resistance" in his letter to his Berwick congregation; he has even passed beyond his "Admonition," which merely prayed for a Phinehas or Jehu: he has now proclaimed the right and duty of the private Protestant assassin. The "Appellation" containing these ideas was published at Geneva in 1558, with the author's, but without the printer's name on the title-page.

"The First Blast" had neither the author's nor printer's name, nor the name of the place of publication. Calvin soon found that it had given grave offence to Queen Elizabeth. He therefore wrote to Cecil that, though the work came from a press in his town, he had not been aware of its existence till a year after its publication. He now took no public steps against the book, not wishing to draw attention to its origin in Geneva, lest, "by reason of the reckless arrogance of one man" ('the ravings of others'), "the miserable crowd of exiles should have been driven away, not only from this city, but even from almost the whole world." {84} As far as I am aware, no one approached Calvin with remonstrance about the monstrosities of the "Appellation," nor are the passages which I have cited alluded to by more than one biographer of Knox, to my knowledge. Professor Hume Brown, however, justly remarks that what the Kirk, immediately after Knox's death, called "Erastianism" (in ordinary parlance the doctrine that the Civil power may interfere in religion) could hardly "be approved in more set terms" than by Knox. He avers that "the ordering and reformation of religion . . . doth especially appertain to the Civil Magistrate . . . " "The King taketh upon him to command the Priests." {85} The opposite doctrine, that it appertains to the Church, is an invention of Satan. To that diabolical invention, Andrew Melville and the Kirk returned in the generation following, while James VI. held to Knox's theory, as stated in the "Appellation."

The truth is that Knox contemplates a State in which the civil power shall be entirely and absolutely of his own opinions; the King, as "Christ's silly vassal," to quote Andrew Melville, being obedient to such prophets as himself. The theories of Knox regarding the duty to revenge God's feud by the private citizen, and regarding religious massacre by the civil power, ideas which would justify the Bartholomew horrors, appear to be forgotten in modern times. His address to the Commonalty, as citizens with a voice in the State, represents the progressive and permanent element in his politics. We have shown, however, that, before Knox's time, the individual Scot was a thoroughly independent character. "The man hath more words than the master, and will not be content unless he knows the master's counsel."

By March 1558, Knox had returned from Dieppe to Geneva. In Scotland, since the godly Band of December 1557, events were moving in two directions. The Church was continuing in a belated and futile attempt at reformation of manners (and wonderfully bad manners they confessedly were), and of education from within. The Congregation, the Protestants, on the other hand, were preparing openly to defend themselves and their adherents from persecution, an honest, manly, and laudable endeavour, so long as they did not persecute other Christians. Their preachers -- such as Harlaw, Methuen, and Douglas -- were publicly active. A moment of attempted suppression must arrive, greatly against the personal wishes of Archbishop Hamilton, who dreaded the conflict.

In March 1558, Hamilton courteously remonstrated with Argyll for harbouring Douglas. He himself was "heavily murmured against" for his slackness in the case of Argyll, by churchmen and other "well given people," and by Mary of Guise, whose daughter, by April 24, 1558, was married to the Dauphin of France. Argyll replied that he knew how the Archbishop was urged on, but declined to abandon Douglas.

"It is a far cry to Loch Awe"; Argyll, who died soon after, was too powerful to be attacked. But, sometime in April 1558 apparently, a poor priest of Forfarshire, Walter Myln, who had married and got into trouble under Cardinal Beaton, was tried for heresy, and, without sentence of a secular judge, it is said, was burned at St. Andrews, displaying serene courage, and hoping to be the last martyr in Scotland. Naturally there was much indignation; if the Lords and others were to keep their Band they must bestir themselves. They did bestir themselves in defence of their favourite preachers -- Willock, Harlaw, Methuen; a ci-devant friar, Christison; and Douglas. Some of these men were summoned several times throughout 1558, and Methuen and Harlaw, at least, were "at the horn" (outlawed), but were protected -- Harlaw at Dumfries, Methuen at Dundee -- by powerful laymen. At Dundee, as we saw, by 1558, Methuen had erected a church of reformed aspect; and "reformed" means that the Kirk had already been purged of altars and images. Attempts to bring the ringleaders of Protestant riots to law were made in 1558, but the precise order of events, and of the protests of the Reformers, appears to be dislocated in Knox's narrative. He himself was not present, and he seems never to have mastered the sequence of occurrences. Fortunately there exists a fragment by a well-informed writer, apparently a contemporary, the "Historie of the Estate of Scotland" covering the events from July 1558 to 1560. {87a} There are also imperfect records of the Parliament of November-December 1558, and of the last Provincial Council of the Church, in March 1559.

For July 28 {87b} four or five of the brethren were summoned to "a day of law," in Edinburgh; their allies assembled to back them, and they were released on bail to appear, if called on, within eight days. At this time the "idol" of St. Giles, patron of the city, was stolen, and a great riot occurred at the saint's fete, September 3. {87c}

Knox describes the discomfiture of his foes in one of his merriest passages, frequently cited by admirers of "his vein of humour." The event, we know, was at once reported to him in Geneva, by letter.

Some time after October, if we rightly construe Knox, {88a} a petition was delivered to the Regent, from the Reformers, by Sandilands of Calder. {88b} They asserted that they should have defended the preachers, or testified with them. The wisdom of the Regent herself sees the need of reform, spiritual and temporal, and has exhorted the clergy and nobles to employ care and diligence thereon, a fact corroborated by Mary of Guise herself, in a paper, soon to be quoted, of July 1559. {88c} They ask, as they have the reading of the Scriptures in the vernacular, for common prayers in the same. They wish for freedom to interpret and discuss the Bible "in our conventions," and that Baptism and the Communion may be done in Scots, and they demand the reform of the detestable lives of the prelates. {88d}

Knox's account, in places, appears really to refer to the period of the Provincial Council of March 1559, though it does not quite fit that date either.

The Regent is said on the occasion of Calder's petition, and after the unsatisfactory replies of the clergy (apparently at the Provincial Council, March 1559), to have made certain concessions, till Parliament established uniform order. But the Parliament was of November-December 1558. {89a} Before that Parliament, at all events (which was mainly concerned with procuring the "Crown Matrimonial" for the Dauphin, husband of Mary Stuart), the brethren offered a petition, in the first place shown to the Regent, asking for (1) the suspension of persecuting laws till after a General Council has "decided all controversies in religion" -- that is, till the Greek Calends. (2) That prelates shall not be judges in cases of heresy, but only accusers before secular tribunals. (3) That all lawful defences be granted to persons accused. (4) That the accused be permitted to explain "his own mind and meaning." (5) That "none be condemned for heretics unless by the manifest Word of God they be convicted to have erred from the faith which the Holy Spirit witnesses to be necessary to salvation." According to Knox this petition the Regent put in her pocket, saying that the Churchmen would oppose it, and thwart her plan for getting the "Crown Matrimonial" given to her son-in- law, Francis II., and, in short, gave good words, and drove time. {89b}

The Reformers then drew up a long Protestation, which was read in the House, but not enrolled in its records. They say that they have had to postpone a formal demand for Reformation, but protest that "it be lawful to us to use ourselves in matters of religion and conscience as we must answer to God," and they are ready to prove their case. They shall not be liable, meanwhile, to any penalties for breach of the existing Acts against heresy, "nor for violating such rites as man, without God's commandment or word, hath commanded." They disclaim all responsibility for the ensuing tumults. {90a} In fact, they aver that they will not only worship in their own way, but prevent other people from worshipping in the legal way, and that the responsibility for the riots will lie on the side of those who worship legally. And this was the chief occasion of the ensuing troubles. The Regent promised to "put good order" in controverted matters, and was praised by the brethren in a letter to Calvin, not now to be found.

Another threat had been made by the brethren, in circumstances not very obscure. As far as they are known they suggest that in January 1559 the zealots deliberately intended to provoke a conflict, and to enlist "the rascal multitude" on their side, at Easter, 1559. The obscurity is caused by a bookbinder. He has, with the fatal ingenuity of his trade, cut off the two top lines from a page in one manuscript copy of Knox's "History." {90b} The text now runs thus (in its mutilated condition): " . . . Zealous Brether . . . upon the gates and posts of all the Friars' places within this realm, in the month of January 1558 (1559), preceding that Whitsunday that they dislodged, which is this . . . "

Then follows the Proclamation.

Probably we may supply the words: ". . . Zealous Brethren caused a paper to be affixed upon the gates and posts," and so on. The paper so promulgated purported to be a warning from the poor of Scotland that, before Whitsunday, "we, the lawful proprietors," will eject the Friars and residents on the property, unlawfully withheld by the religious -- "our patrimony." This feat will be performed, "with the help of God, and assistance of his Saints on earth, of whose ready support we doubt not."

As the Saints, in fact, were the "Zealous Brether . . ." who affixed the written menace on "all the Friars' places," they knew what they were talking about, and could prophesy safely. To make so many copies of the document, and fix them on "all the Friars' places," implies organisation, and a deliberate plan -- riots and revolution -- before Whitsunday. The poor, of course, only exchanged better for worse landlords, as they soon discovered. The "Zealous Brethren" -- as a rule small lairds, probably, and burgesses -- were the nucleus of the Revolution. When townsfolk and yeomen in sufficient number had joined them in arms, then nobles like Argyll, Lord James, Glencairn, Ruthven, and the rest, put themselves at the head of the movement, and won the prizes which had been offered to the "blind, crooked, widows, orphans, and all other poor."

After Parliament was over, at the end of December 1558, the Archbishop of St. Andrews again summoned the preachers, Willock, Douglas, Harlaw, Methuen, and Friar John Christison to a "day of law" at St. Andrews, on February 2, 1559. (This is the statement of the "Historie.") {91} The brethren then "caused inform the Queen Mother that the said preachers would appear with such multitude of men professing their doctrine, as was never seen before in such like cases in this country," and kept their promise. The system of overawing justice by such gatherings was usual, as we have already seen; Knox, Bothwell, Lethington, and the Lord James Stewart all profited by the practice on various occasions.

Mary of Guise, "fearing some uproar or sedition," bade the bishops put off the summons, and, in fact, the preachers never were summoned, finally, for any offences prior to this date.

On February 9, 1559, the Regent issued proclamations against eating flesh in Lent (this rule survived the Reformation by at least seventy years) and against such disturbances of religious services as the Protest just described declared to be imminent, all such deeds being denounced under "pain of death" -- as pain of death was used to be threatened against poachers of deer and wild fowl. {92a}

Mary, however, had promised, as we saw, that she would summon the nobles and Estates, "to advise for some reformation in religion" (March 7, 1559), and the Archbishop called a Provincial Council to Edinburgh for March. At this, or some other juncture, for Knox's narrative is bewildering, {92b} the clergy offered free discussion, but refused to allow exiles like himself to be present, and insisted on the acceptance of the Mass, Purgatory, the invocation of saints, with security for their ecclesiastical possessions. In return they would grant prayers and baptism in English, if done privately and not in open assembly. The terms, he says, were rejected; appeal was made to Mary of Guise, and she gave toleration, except for public assemblies in Edinburgh and Leith, pending the meeting of Parliament. To the clergy, who, "some say," bribed her, she promised to "put order" to these matters. The Reformers were deceived, and forbade Douglas to preach in Leith. So writes Knox.

Now the "Historie" dates all this, bribe and all, after the end of December 1558. Knox, however, by some confusion, places the facts, bribe and all, before April 28, 1558, Myln's martyrdom! {93a} Yet he had before him as he wrote the Chronicle of Bruce of Earlshall, who states the bribe, Knox says, at 40,000 pounds; the "Historie" says "within 15,000 pounds." {93b}

In any case Knox, who never saw his book in print, has clearly dislocated the sequence of events. At this date, namely March 1559, the preaching agitators were at liberty, nor were they again put at for any of their previous proceedings. But defiances had been exchanged. The Reformers in their Protestation (December 1558) had claimed it as lawful, we know, that they should enjoy their own services, and put down those of the religion by law established, until such time as the Catholic clergy "be able to prove themselves the true ministers of Christ's Church" and guiltless of all the crimes charged against them by their adversaries. {93c} That was the challenge of the Reformers, backed by the menace affixed to the doors of all the monasteries. The Regent in turn had thrown down her glove by the proclamation of February 9, 1559, against disturbing services and "bosting" (bullying) priests. How could she possibly do less in the circumstances? If her proclamation was disobeyed, could she do less than summon the disobedient to trial? Her hand was forced.

It appears to myself, under correction, that all this part of the history of the Reformation has been misunderstood by our older historians. Almost without exception, they represent the Regent as dissembling with the Reformers till, on conclusion of the peace of Cateau Cambresis (which left France free to aid her efforts in Scotland), April 2, 1559, and on the receipt of a message from the Guises, "she threw off the mask," and initiated an organised persecution. But there is no evidence that any such message commanding her to persecute at this time came from the Guises before the Regent had issued her proclamations of February 9 and March 23, {94a} denouncing attacks on priests, disturbance of services, administering of sacraments by lay preachers, and tumults at large. Now, Sir James Melville of Halhill, the diplomatist, writing in old age, and often erroneously, makes the Cardinal of Lorraine send de Bettencourt, or Bethencourt, to the Regent with news of the peace of Cateau Cambresis and an order to punish heretics with fire and sword, and says that, though she was reluctant, she consequently published her proclamation of March 23. Dates prove part of this to be impossible. {94b}

Obviously the Regent had issued her proclamations of February-March 1559 in anticipation of the tumults threatened by the Reformers in their "Beggar's Warning" and in their Protestation of December, and arranged to occur with violence at Easter, as they did. The three or four preachers (two of them apparently "at the horn" in 1558) were to preach publicly, and riots were certain to ensue, as the Reformers had threatened. Riots were part of the evangelical programme. Of Paul Methuen, who first "reformed" the Church in Dundee, Pitscottie writes that he "ministered the sacraments of the communion at Dundee and Cupar, and caused the images thereof to be cast down, and abolished the Pope's religion so far as he passed or preached." For this sort of action he was now summoned. {95a}

The Regent, therefore, warned in her proclamations men, often challenged previously, and as often allowed, under fear of armed resistance, to escape. All that followed was but a repetition of the feeble policy of outlawing these four or five men. Finally, in May 1559, these preachers had a strong armed backing, and seized a central strategic point, so the Revolution blazed out on a question which had long been smouldering and on an occasion that had been again and again deferred. The Regent, far from having foreseen and hardened her heart to carry out an organised persecution and "cut the throats" of all Protestants in Scotland, was, in fact, intending to go to France, being in the earlier stages of her fatal malady. This appears from a letter of Sir Henry Percy, from Norham Castle, to Cecil and Parry (April 12, 1559) {95b} Percy says that the news in his latest letters (now lost) was erroneous. The Regent, in fact, "is not as yet departed." She is very ill, and her life is despaired of. She is at Stirling, where the nobles had assembled to discuss religious matters. Only her French advisers were on the side of the Regent. "The matter is pacified for the time," and in case of the Regent's death, Chatelherault, d'Oysel, and de Rubay are to be a provisional committee of Government, till the wishes of the King and Queen, Francis and Mary, are known. Again, in her letter of May 16 to Henri II. of France, she stated that she was in very bad health, {96a} and, at about the same date (May 18), the English ambassador in France mentions her intention to visit that country at once. {96b} But the Revolution of May 11, breaking out in Perth, condemned her to suffer and die in Scotland.

This, however, does not amount to proof that no plan of persecution in Scotland was intended. Throckmorton writes, on May 18, that the Marquis d'Elboeuf is to go thither. "He takes with him both men of conduct and some of war; it is thought his stay will not be long." Again (May 23, 24), Throckmorton reports that Henri II. means to persecute extremely in Poitou, Guienne, and Scotland. "Cecil may take occasion to use the matter in Scotland as may seem best to serve the turn." {96c} This was before the Perth riot had been reported (May 26) by Cecil to Throckmorton. Was d'Elboeuf intended to direct the persecution? The theory has its attractions, but Henri, just emerged with maimed forces from a ruinous war, knew that a persecution which served Cecil's "turn" did not serve his. To persecute in Scotland would mean renewed war with England, and could not be contemplated. If Sir James Melville can be trusted for once, the Constable, about June 1, told him, in the presence of the French King, that if the Perth revolt were only about religion, "we mon commit Scottismen's saules unto God." {97} Melville was then despatched with promise of aid to the Regent -- if the rising was political, not religious.

It is quite certain that the Regent issued her proclamations without any commands from France; and her health was inconsistent with an intention to put Protestants to fire and sword.

In the records of the Provincial Council of March 1559, the foremost place is given to "Articles" presented to the Regent by "some temporal Lords and Barons," and by her handed to the clergy. They are the proposals of conservative reformers. They ask for moral reformation of the lives of the clergy: for sermons on Sundays and holy days: for due examination of the doctrine, life, and learning of all who are permitted to preach. They demand that no vicar or curate shall be appointed unless he can read the catechism (of 1552) plainly and distinctly: that expositions of the sacraments should be clearly pronounced in the vernacular: that common prayer should be read in the vernacular: that certain exactions of gifts and dues should be abolished. Again, no one should be allowed to dishonour the sacraments, or the service of the Mass: no unqualified person should administer the sacraments: Kirk rapine, destruction of religious buildings and works of art, should not be permitted.

The Council passed thirty-four statutes on these points. The clergy were to live cleanly, and not to keep their bastards at home. They were implored, "in the bowels of Christ" to do their duty in the services of the Church. No one in future was to be admitted to a living without examination by the Ordinary. Ruined churches were to be rebuilt or repaired. Breakers of ornaments and violators or burners of churches were to be pursued. There was to be preaching as often as the Ordinary thought fit: if the Rector could not preach he must find a substitute who could. Plain expositions of the sacraments were made out, were to be read aloud to the congregations, and were published at twopence ("The Twopenny Faith"). Administration of the Eucharist except by priests was to be punished by excommunication. {98a} Knox himself desired death for others than true ministers who celebrated the sacrament. {98b} His "true ministers," about half-a-dozen of them at this time, of course came under the penalty of the last statute.

He says, with the usual error, that after peace was made between France and England, on April 2, 1559 (the treaty of Cateau Cambresis), the Regent "began to spew forth and disclose the latent venom of her double heart." She looked "frowardly" on Protestants, "commanded her household to use all abominations at Easter," she herself communicated, "and it is supposed that after that day the devil took more violent and strong possession in her than he had before . . . For incontinent she caused our preachers to be summoned."

But why did she summon the same set of preachers as before, for no old offence? The Regent, says the "Historie," made proclamation, during the Council (as the moderate Reformers had asked her to do), "that no manner of person should . . . preach or minister the sacraments, except they were admitted by the Ordinary or a Bishop on no less pain than death." The Council, in fact, made excommunication the penalty. Now it was for ministering the sacrament after the proclamation of March 13, for preaching heresy, and stirring up "seditions and tumults," that Methuen, Brother John Christison, William Harlaw, and John Willock were summoned to appear at Stirling on May 10, 1559. {99a}

How could any governor of Scotland abstain from summoning them in the circumstances? There seems to be no new suggestion of the devil, no outbreak of Guisian fury. The Regent was in a situation whence there was no "outgait": she must submit to the seditions and tumults threatened in the Protestation of the brethren, the disturbances of services, the probable wrecking of churches, or she must use the powers legally entrusted to her. She gave insolent answers to remonstrances from the brethren, says Knox. She would banish the preachers (not execute them), "albeit they preached as truly as ever did St. Paul." Being threatened, as before, with the consequent "inconvenients," she said "she would advise." However, summon the preachers she did, for breach of her proclamations, "tumults and seditions." {99b}

Knox himself was present at the Revolution which ensued, but we must now return to his own doings in the autumn and winter of 1558-59. {100}

chapter vii knox in scotland
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