April 02 , 2009

John Knox


The century now closing has redeemed Knox from neglect, and has gathered around his name a mass of biographical material. That material, too, includes much that is of the nature of self-revelation, to be gleaned from familiar letters, as well as from his own history of his time. Yet, after all that has been brought together, Knox remains to many observers a mere hard outline, while to others he is almost an enigma—a blur, bright or black, upon the historic page. There is one real and great difficulty. For the first forty years of his life we know absolutely nothing of the inner man. Yet at forty most men are already made. And in the case of this man, from about that date onwards we find the character settled and fixed. Henceforward, during the whole later life with its continually changing drama, Knox remains intensely and unchangeably the same. It is the contrast, perhaps the crisis, which is worth studying. The contrast, indeed, is not unprecedented. More than one Knox-like prophet, in the solemn days of early faith, 'was in the desert until the time of his shewing unto Israel'; and not the polished shaft only, but the rough spear-head too, has remained hid in the shadow of a mighty hand until the very day when it was launched. But each such case impels us the more to inquire, What was it after all which really made the man who in his turn made the age? This early blank in the biography raises questions, some of which will never be answered. We do not know at all when Knox took priest's orders.
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