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 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 England’s Queen Mary had been replaced by the more Protestant Elizabeth, and the groups of Protestant refugees in Europe were abuzz with excitement.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. The 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 1.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
1550 – Joan Boucher is burned to death in England for denying that the Virgin Mary was sinless. When a bishop preached at her execution, trying to convert her, she told him he “lied like a rogue” and bade him “go and read the Scriptures.”
1852 – Death in England of Samuel Leigh, who had been the first Methodist missionary to Australia and had also served in New Zealand.
1952 – Death of Matrona of Moscow (Matryona Nikonova) who had been born blind and early showed an ability to prophesy. She had adhered to the faith of the Orthodox Church despite being rendered homeless by the Soviets, and people had concealed her whereabouts so that she was never arrested and sent to the Gulag. She will be named a saint by her church.
1982 – Lin Xiangao (Samuel Lamb) is arrested in Guangzhou for holding house church services. He had already served two sentences in prison for resisting Chinese laws against giving religious instruction to the young and refusal to submit to the government-run Three Self Patriotic Church.
2011 – Turkish authorities demolish the 200-year-old Greek Orthodox Chapel of Saint Thekla in Vokolida, Cyprus.
Accessed ChristianHistoryInstitute.org 01 May 2022.