If you’re wanting a little peak into the life of Knox and the affect he had on society around him and abroad, this book is a marvellous little introduction.
D.M.Lloyd-Jones kicks off this informative little book with a live presentation that has been transcribed and which makes up the first half of this book. There’s an interesting question to tell what we really feel, about the ministry of John Knox. That question is: how do we feel about people preaching a similar way today? What happened in the Reformation is without a doubt one of the most remarkable events in history. Yes, the Protestant Reformation changed and turned the entire course of history, not only for Christians but for the entire world. Lloyd-Jones states as one example of this that if there were no Reformation there would have been no formation of the United States of America. But our little book isn’t about America it’s more about Scotland. And for Scotland in the reformation “This nation of yours, from being a dissolute, drunken, and illiterate country, became famous throughout the world for her sober, righteous, able, intelligent people”. What brought this all about, The Bible. Going back to God’s Word. This transformation was not just about changing behaviour. It was about converted souls and Gospel truth.
These reformers such as John Knox were interested in one thing “How can a man be just with God?”. And they saw Christ’s work on the cross as exactly that, God putting our guilt upon Christ and punishing him for our guilt, the only worthy sacrifice to take away our sin. And it was this Gospel message that filled John Knox with passion. “Did not Mary, Queen of Scotts fear the prayers of John Knox more than she feared the English soldiers?”. And that also inspired Knox’s sermons, some of these sermons God would use to change Scotland overnight! Prayer and the preaching of the Gospel are perhaps the main ways God changes our world. On preaching Lloyd-Jones recalls a minister that was preaching for over 2 hours, he caught himself and said “please forgive me I must not continue” a voice cried out from the congregation “For God’s sake don’t stop”. I wonder what that man was preaching… Perhaps something quite different to some of our sermons today which empty the cross of Christ of it’s power (see 1 Corinthians chapters 1 and 2). The type of preaching that changed Scotland was preaching that was convicting, powerful, alarming, urgent, humbling, converting sermons. A courageous man, who strived to follow his convictions according to God’s word at all points, he did not hesitate to disagree with the likes of Tyndale or Calvin when hi understanding of scripture demanded it. Going back to the scriptures did not end in doctrine, it impacted worship. Knox desired to let the Bible regulate how we worship God, not adding or taking away. He preached against the prayer book and the Anglican church for not holding to reformation thought with a tight grip, for letting Catholic traditions creep into the Protestant church.
And one of our favourite Banner of Truth gentlemen take over for the second half of the book… Iain Murray.
Ian Murray starts with a different question. Why is Knox seen today, not as a great Gospel preaching Scotsman, but one with few Christian virtues. Too cold. Too little grace and too much fire and brimstone perhaps. There was a very controversial book which around 1530 was causing a lot of tension in Scotland, to the point where it was banned. This book was William Tyndale’s translation of the New Testament. A few years earlier Patrick Hamilton was condemned for affirming that the sacraments, in and of themselves, cannot save. This new reformed thought was grounded in the Bible and was moving the basis of salvation from the church to Christ. Mr Hamilton said that this Christ ‘bare our sins on his back and brought us with his blood”. God raised up Knox to change Scotland. He was raised up being a man of the Word and a man of Prayer. No one could deny that he was a man of prayer. He was also a man with a vision, to bring nations together under the Gospel. So is we go back to our question why is Knox seen in a negative light? In his last publication he writes “in youth, middle age, and now after many battles, i find nothing in me but vanity and corruption”. Maybe the negative perception people have is because Knox saw our desperate need for Christ, in which all glory is cast off man and onto Christ. Some preachers today don’t talk about sin, some deny the doctrine of original sin, some feel they can preach a positive Gospel to good people. But that’s not the Christian message and that’s not what Knox preached. We need to see our corruption to see our need for Christ. Iain writes of Sterling, 1559. When protestant forces had been beaten by the French. They marched for Sterling and there regathered, defeated, feeling helpless and demoralised, except for one man. It was at this low point that John Knox preached from Psalm 80 “Turn to us, O God of hosts, and cause your face to shine and we will be saved”. For years to come men spoke of this sermon. The listeners were like men brought back from the dead. In another service that John Knox preached at a lady brought some paper and a pen to jot down some notes. But recorded afterwards that she was shuddering so much at the Word of God being applied that she could not hold her pen to write while trembling. May God bless his people today, with powerful Gospel preaching.