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
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
and casts a light on his often alleged
intransigence and his rough words to Mary Queen of Scots.

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

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
(1561) and a new liturgy , the Book of
Common Order

 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
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.”