Giffordgate, Scotland, outside Haddington, was an ardently Catholic village containing several churches, two monasteries, an abbey—and a farming couple named Knox who reared a child named John. The lad excelled at Haddington Grammar School where his teacher proclaimed him the most brilliant pupil he had ever had. John entered the University of Glasgow, then St. Andrews University, where the gusts of the Reformation tugged at his Catholic heart.

Knox spent the next 20 years as a village priest and college lecturer. Then one day, listening to a Mr. Williams preach Reformation truth, he was struck as with an arrow. Soon thereafter he “cast anchor” by faith in Christ alone. His Reformation ideas put him at risk, and for years he alternated between flight and imprisonment (once chained to the oars of a galley ship). He finally settled down in relative safety on the Continent where he studied, wrote, discussed, and kept an eye on his native land.

In 1559 he sensed it was time to return. England’s Queen Mary had been replaced by the more Protestant Elizabeth, and the groups of Protestant refugees in Europe were abuzz with excitement. Protestants began streaming back into England, and in late April Knox himself set sail for Scotland, determined to “blow the Lord’s trumpet” gallantly.

He landed on May 2, 1559 to find a nation on the knife edge of chaos. Mary of Guise, queen regent and mother of young Mary, Queen of Scots, was railing against Protestants. Civil war was threatening. Knox’s presence and preachments so inspired the people that the English ambassador reported, “The voice of one man is able in one hour to put more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears.”

The government fought Protestants tooth and nail until June 10, 1560, when the queen regent died. The Treaty of Edinburgh temporarily ended the conflict, and the Reformation took hold. More storms lay ahead, and the aging Knox grew surly. But he managed to lead a bloodless revolution in Scotland and establish the faith of a nation.

Sound the trumpet on Zion! Call the people together. Show your sorrow by going without food. Make sure that everyone is fit to worship me. (Joel 2:15)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 2.

*Picture in header by By Andrew Colin.

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