Knox, his formative years.

Knox was
born in 1505 probably in the village of Gifford, near
Haddington, Midlothian. His father was descended from an
ancient family who owned the lands of Knock, Ranferly and
Craigends in Renfrewshire. His mother was a Sinclair. 
He was educated at Glasgow University where he had John
Mair or Major, as professor of philosophy and theology and
tutor. Major taught  that the Pope was inferior to a
General Council and that it might judge, rebuke, restrain
and even depose him. In civil administration he taught
that the authority of kings and princes  were
originally derived from the people; that they were not
superior; and that if rulers became tyrannical, or abuse
their powers, they might be lawfully controlled by the
people. Such control might be to depose them and tyrants 
might be proceeded against by the justiciary, even to
capital punishment. That these sentiments were being
expressed as early as 1517 and subsequently at St Andrews
in 1523 is remarkable – over a century before the latter
principal was put into action by the execution of Charles
I in 1649.

companion in his studies was the eminent George Buchanan
but they went in different scholastic directions. Buchanan
inclined to literature and poesy and Knox took to secular
learning and the labours of a sacred ministry. About 1530
he was inducted as a priest in the Church of Rome but does
not appear to have been given a specific jurisdiction as
required under canon law. This meant that he could not
preach according to the rites of that Church. However,
very early on Knox took  an interest in the original
works of Jerome and Augustine which led him to the
Scriptures  as the divine truth and by 1535 he was
pursuing a different theology. It was not until about 1542
that he professed himself a Protestant.

reformed doctrine in Scotland had already shown itself in
the likes of Patrick
before it was embraced by Knox. By 1540 the
doctrine was being adopted by the common people as well as
a host of influential persons and nobles including 
William, Earl of Glencairn; his son  Alexander, Lord
Kilmaurs; William Earl of Errol; William Lord Ruthven; his
daughter Lillias, wife of the Master of Drummond; John
Stewart, son of Lord Methven; Sir James Sandilands; Sir
David Lyndsay; Campbell of Cessnock; Erskine of Dun; 
Melville of Raith;  Balnaves of Halhill; Straiton of
Lauriston and the advocates William Johnston and Robert
Alexander. These supporters of the evangel were among over
a hundred whom the clergy denounced as heretics to James V
and sought to proceed against them. However, James V died
on 13 December 1542 before action against them could be

Knox was
particularly a devotee of
George Wishart
and became his sword bearer following a
threat on his life in Dundee. Wishart was impressed with
the zeal of his young companion and on the night of his
seizure by Bothwell (on the instruction of Cardinal
Beaton) ordered his sword to be taken from Knox. When Knox
sought to go with him to Ormiston he was told by Wishart ”
Nay return to your bairnes” [ meaning his pupils]  ”
and God bless you, ane [ one ] is sufficient for a

Knox taught
for a while in St Andrews and was tutor to the family of
Hugh Douglas of Langniddrie and the son of John Cockburn
of Ormiston. These connections stayed any action by the
Papists following the murder of Cardinal Beaton, but
pressures mounted on Knox and his co religionist John
Rough who were pursued for alleged heresy. Rough departed
into England while Knox remained at St Andrews teaching in
the castle that had been seized earlier. He was there when
a French fleet and a body of land forces arrived in June
1547 . Generally the Scots were treated reasonably well
but Knox was taken on board ship to Rouen where he was
transferred to the galleys. Here he was heaped in chains
and abused as heretics. From Rouen the galleys went to
Nantes where they over wintered. While here

“Solicitations, threatenings,  and violence were all
employed  to induce the prisoners to change their
religion , or at least to countenance the popish worship “

An incident
involving Knox occurred when a fine painted image of the
Virgin was brought to the galley and it was desired that a
Scottish prisoner should kiss the image in adoration. An
attempt was made to make Knox kiss it and he was roughly
handled as the image was forced towards his mouth. But
breaking free he grasped the image and threw it into the
river saying

 “Lat our
Ladie now save hirself sche is lycht enoughe, lat hir
leirne to swyme.”

The image
was retrieved from the river with some difficulty; 
it ensured that the prisoners were not further troubled by
the pettiness of the papal representatives.

In 1548
Knox was still a prisoner in the galleys when he and others were released and
returned to Scotland and St Andrews. By then he was ill
and suffering with a fever but he prophetically commented
while gazing at the spires of St Andrews, that  “I
shall not depart this life, till that my tongue shall
glorify  his godly name in the same place. ” After
nineteen months of imprisonment Knox gained his release in
February 1549. How this came about seems to be in doubt,
some say the galley he was on was captured in the English
Channel; another version was that he was found not guilty
of involvement in the murder of Beaton and ordered to be
released by the King of France.  A third and most
likely reason was that the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots
to the French Dauphin had been agreed. She was physically
in France with the Guise family, and the Court were no
longer concerned at the quarrels and revenge taking of the
clergy having gained a greater prize. Knox  immediately went to England.

Next: Knox in England