The repentance of England requireth two things: First, the expulsion
of all dregs of popery and the treading under foot of all glistering
beauty of vain ceremonies. Next, no power or liberty must be
permitted to any, of what estate, degree or authority they be,
either to live without the yoke of discipline by God's word
commanded, or to alter one jot in religion which from God's mouth
thou hast received. If prince, king or emperor would enterprise to
change or disannul the same, that he be the reputed enemy to God,
while a prince who erects idolatry must be adjudged to death.
John Knox the Scotchman, Martin Luther the German, and John Calvin the
Frenchman, were contemporaries. They constitute a trinity of strong
men who profoundly influenced their times; and the epoch they made was
so important that we call it "The Reformation." They form the undertow
of that great tidal wave of reason and commonsense called the Italian
Renaissance. And as the chief business of the Hahnemannian school of
medicine was to dilute the dose of the Allopaths, and the Christian
Scientists confirmed the homeopaths in a belief concerning the
beauties of the blank tablet, so did Luther, Calvin and Knox
neutralize the arrogance of Rome, and dilute the dose of despotism.
Knox, Luther, and Calvin were hunted men. They lived stormy,
tumultuous lives, torn by plot and counterplot. Very naturally, their
religion is filled with fever and fear, and their God is jealous,
revengeful, harsh, arbitrary, savage--a God of wrath.
Only a bold man, rough and coarse, could have defied the reigning
powers and done the work which Destiny had cut out for John Knox to
do. His power lay in the hallucination that his utterances were the
final expressions of truth. Had he known more he would have done less.
Life is a sequence, and we are what we are because this man lived. To
the memory of John Knox we acknowledge our obligation; but we realize
that for us to accept and adopt the conclusions and ideals of one who
lived in such tempestuous times is no honor to ourselves, nor to him.
The Christian Church has preached five special phases of belief, as
follows: First, Religion by Definition; Second, Religion by
Submission; Third, Religion by Substitution; Fourth, Religion by
Culture; Fifth, Religion by Service.
All of these phases overlap, more or less, and the difference in sects
consists simply in the amount of emphasis which is placed upon each or
any particular phase. And this is largely a matter of temperament.
The Catholic Church emphasizes definition above all things. You are
told the nature of evil; the Godhead, the trinity, the sacraments,
the "elements" are explained, and the syllabus and catechism play
most important parts. Before you are confirmed you have to memorize
many definitions: little girls of ten glibly explain the difference
between a mortal and a venal sin, and boys in knee-breeches discourse
upon the geography of other worlds, and the state of sinners after
Next to Religion by Definition is Religion by Submission, and usually
they go together. Persons too stupid to define can still submit.
Service is not an essential, and in fact service without definition is
usually regarded as hideous, "the righteousness of an unbeliever being
as filthy rags." However, if it were not for the service rendered by
the monks, priests and nuns, the Catholic Church could never have
retained its hold upon humanity. Its schools, asylums, hospitals and
houses of refuge have been its excuse for existence, and the undoing
of the infidel. But service with the Catholic Church is emphasized
only for the priesthood--the laity being simply asked to define,
submit and pay. Culture and character are left to natural selection,
and the thought that any person but a priest could have either is a
very modern hypothesis. In way of Religion by Definition, Saint Paul
was the great modern exponent. That the Theological Quibblers' Club
existed long before his time we know full well. In fact, the chief
invective of Jesus against Judaism was that it had degenerated into a
mere matter of dispute concerning intricate nothings.
When Paul was brought before Gallio, the brother of Seneca, Gallio
paid his respects to the same quibbling propensities against which
Jesus had inveighed, by saying, "If it were a matter of wrong or of
wicked villainy. O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:
but if they are questions about words and names and your own law, look
to it yourselves; I am not minded to be a judge of these matters."
Pity and piety have nothing necessarily to do with Religion by
Definition. We can all recall men of acute minds who thought
themselves pious, who had bartered their souls away in order to become
senior wranglers. Intellect lured them on into wordy unseemliness;
their skill in forensics became a passion, and to embarrass and defeat
the antagonist became the thing desired, not the pursuit of truth.
They fell victims to their facility in syntax and prosody--semi-
Solomons in Scriptural explanations, waxing wise in defining the
difference 'twixt hyssop and myrrh.
Forty years ago no town in America was free from joint debates where
the disputants would argue six nights and days together concerning
vicarious salvation, baptism, regeneration, justification and the
condition of unbaptized infants after death. Debates of this kind set
the entire populace by the ears, and at post-office, tavern, grocery,
family table, and even after the disputants had gone to bed, reasons
nice, and subtleties hairsplitting were passed back and forth, until
finally the party getting worsted fell back on maternal pedigrees, and
epithet took the place of logic.
If the matter ended merely with the weapons of wordy warfare, it was
fortunate and well, for these eyes have seen a camp-meeting where
singletrees, neck-yokes, harness-tugs and scalding water augmented
arguments concerning foreordination as taught by John Calvin and
freewill as defined by John Knox.
Theological wrangles belong essentially to a pioneer people: an
earnest, stubbornly honest people, whose lives are given over to a
battle with the elements and the brute forces of Nature, always
Submission is not recognized in their formula except as a word, and
their abnegation takes the form of a persistent pursuit of the thing
desired, by following another trail. Such persons are always very
proud, and the thing upon which they most pride themselves is their
humility, and absence of pride.
"Morality comes only after physical self-preservation is secure," says
Herbert Spencer, and with culture it is the same, and so the word is
not in the bright lexicon of pioneers. All of their service is of the
Connecticut variety--if you need things, they have them for sale. And
so we get the wooden-nutmeg enterprise, and the peculiar incident of
the New Haven man at the Pan-American Fair, who sold wooden nutmegs
for charms and bangles. But one day, running out of wooden nutmegs, he
went to a wholesale grocer and bought a bushel of the genuine ones,
and these he palmed off upon the innocent and unsuspecting, until he
was brought to book on the charge of false pretenses. Human service,
as taught by Jesus of Nazareth, has only been tried in a very
spasmodic way, except for advertising purposes. The world has now, for
the first time in history, reached a point where as a vital problem
the production of wealth is secondary to the question of how we shall
distribute it. And so the Religion of Service is being seriously
considered, and perhaps will soon be given a trial. The man who said
that the number of marriages was in exact ratio to the price of corn
spoke wisely. What he meant was that physical well-being directly
affects all of our social relations. It is exactly the same with our
religion. Economics and religion are very closely related. People in a
certain physical environment have a certain religion. A tired and
overworked people, enslaved as chattels or by the spirit of the times,
find solace in a mournful religion, and a haven of rest hereafter--
also, in the contemplation of a Hell for those who believe differently
from what they do. They sing, "All Days Will Be Sunday By and By," or
"Sweet Rest in Heaven." If they are oppressed by debt and mortgages
that gnaw, they sing, "Jesus paid it all, yes, all the debt I owe." A
warlike people whose wealth has come from conquest will shout the
English National Hymn and take joy in such lines as "Confound their
knavish tricks," expressed as a prayer.
The Religion of Culture flowers best in those with seven generations
of New England clerical ancestry, or a carefully pruned F. F. V.
family-tree. It goes with just a little and not too much C. B. & Q.
and Old Colony eight per cent guaranteed, or wide ancestral acres.
Most Unitarians and Episcopalians hold a caveat on culture and have
character by the scruff. The Religion of Culture has a flavor of thyme
and mignonette, and a gleam of old silver plate handed down as
heirlooms. It means leisure, books on the shelf, well-filled
woodsheds, and cellars stocked with vegetables.
It is leisurely, kindly, intelligent, gentle beautiful. The Religion
of Culture is exclusive, and slips easily into social caste, which is
spiritual and mental ankylosis. Its disadvantages are that to pursue
culture is to frighten her far afield, and have her elude you. To
strive for character is to lose it.
People who strive for health are headed for the sanatorium, for
vitality plus comes only to those who do not think much about it; and
likewise character is evolved best by those who forget character and
lose their lives in service. Dyspeptics are people who have no faith
in their digestive apparatus.
The Reformation revolved around Definition and Substitution. We escape
the doom we deserve through the death of some one else. This belief in
Substitution goes with an age that never doubted the beauty of capital
punishment, and was worked out by men familiar with block, broadax and
basket. Luther, Calvin and Knox possessed the elements of Submission,
Character and Service only in rudimentary form. Substitution and
Definition were their cornerstones.
* * * * *
That sturdy reformer, Martin Luther, was born in Fourteen Hundred
Eighty-three. He was nine years old when Columbus turned the prow of
his caravel to the West and persistently sailed on.
Luther's father was a miner--a day laborer--and the lad's childhood
was grim and cheerless. He sang on the streets, and held out a ragged
cap for pennies. His fine, sweet voice caught the ear of a priest, and
the boy's services were used at the altar. The lad was alert, active,
intelligent, ambitious. Very naturally he was educated for the
priesthood. He became a monk, and evolved into a preacher of worth and
A prosperous and successful church always produces a class of
dignitaries given over to sloth and sensuality. From a sublime idea,
with a desire to benefit and to bless, the church degenerates into an
institution for the distribution of honors, and an engine for
punishment for all who oppose it. To Martin Luther religion was a
matter of the heart, and his soul was filled with the thought of
service. At the same time he had ability in the matter of definition.
He began calling upon the Church to reform, and demanding that priests
repent. Very naturally the priests thought it absurd for Luther to try
to bring the righteous to repentance. They laughed. Later they
scowled. Then they called on Doctor Luther to mend his manners, and
not make the Church and himself ridiculous in the eyes of the world.
Had Luther had an eye on the main chance he would at this time have
pulled in his horns, and chosen other texts, and been promoted in due
course to a bishopric; for although the man was small in stature, yet
he carried the crown of his head high and his chin in. What he had
before simply stated he now began to prove. The small hand of
authority, gloved in imitation velvet, here lifted Luther out of a
position of power and honor as "District Vicar," a place that spelled
promotion, and put him back as a grade school-teacher. Had the Pope
been really infallible and the church authorities all-wise, they would
have killed Luther, and that would 'a' been an end on 't. Leniency
just then was an error in judgment. Luther set about bolstering his
mental position. The more he thought about it, the more firmly
convinced was he that his cause was just.
Where thinkers are, there is thought. Thinkers think anywhere, in
country, village, town--in prison. Wittenberg was obscure, more than
half of the students were charity boys, the professors were thin,
dyseptic and glum, or fat and opinionated--all repeated the things
they had been taught, save Martin Luther alone.
And on the thirty-first day of October, Fifteen Hundred Seventeen,
Luther tacked upon the church-door his ninety-five theses, and offered
to debate them 'gainst all the Church Fathers that could be mustered.
Trite, indeed, are the propositions now. Rome has really accepted them
all, even to that one which hints that we, too, are divine in degree,
just like our Elder Brother. Challenges on the church-doors of
colleges were common, but coming from a semi-silenced priest, and
directed at the Pope's emissary, ah! that was different. Even at that,
the whole affair would have been lost in local oblivion, had not the
few zealous boys who loved Luther started their two printing-presses
in the cellar of the church, and worked night and day pulling proofs.
The printing-presses did it! Without the typesetter, the make-ready
man, and the sturdy lads who pulled the lever, Luther's voice would
not have reached across the campus.
But lo! Luther was talking to the world, not to sleepy Wittenberg!
Luther was requested to appear at the Vatican--more properly, the
Castle Angelo. He ignored the invitation. Another summons followed.
Luther went into hiding. He was arrested, tried and condemned, and
sentence suspended. He was again tried, this time by the Emperor and
the Electors, and again condemned. The formal sentence of death only
awaited, and then for him the fagots would flare and the flames
His friends captured him, they of the printing-presses, helped by
others, and bore him away to a prison where his enemies could not
follow. Many a man has been thrown into prison by his enemies, but who
besides Luther was so treated by his friends! Public sentiment was
with him--Germany stood by him--but best of all the printers pulled
the proofs, and four-page folders edited by Martin Luther went
fluttering all over the world, protesting man's right to think.
So he lived out his days, did Martin Luther, on parole, under sentence
of death, working, thinking, writing, printing. And over in France a
serious, sober young man, keen, mentally hungry, translated one of
Luther's pamphlets into French, and printed it for his school-fellows.
Having printed it, he had to explain it, and next to defend it--and
also his action in having printed it. The young man's name was Jean
Chauvain. He spelled it "Caulvain" or "Calvain." The world knows him
as John Calvin.
* * * * *
John Calvin was a Frenchman, but it is well to remember that the
typical Frenchman, like the typical Irishman and his brother the Jew,
exists only in the comic papers, and on the vaudeville stage. The
frivolous and the mercurial were not in Calvin's make-up.
The parents of Calvin were of that same sturdy, seafaring type which
produced Millet, Auguste Rodin, Jules Breton, and other simple,
earnest and great souls who have done great deeds. Calvin was the true
Peasant ancestry and a nearness to the soil are necessary conditions
in the formation of characters who are to re-map continents, artistic
or theological. The Puritan is a necessary product of his time.
However, Calvin had the advantage of one remove from actual hardship,
and this evidently refined his intellect, and relieved him of world
stage-fright. His father was a notary or steward in the employ of the
De Mommor family. Very naturally, the boy mixed with the scions of
royalty on an equal footing, for pom-pom-pull-away knows no caste, and
a boy's a boy for a' that. At twelve years of age, he felt himself
quite as noble as those of noble blood, and so expressed himself to
his playmates. Probably they found it convenient to agree with him.
Their nickname for him was, "The Accusative."
The world accepts a man at the estimate he places upon himself. There
was a De Mommor lad the same age of John Calvin, and one three years
older. In his studies he set them both a pace, and so correct and
diligent was he that when the De Mommor lads were sent down to Paris,
the tutor insisted that John Calvin should go, too, and a benefice was
at once made out for him providing that he should be educated for the
priesthood. Legend has it that at this time, being then fifteen years
old, he admonished his parents in the way of life, and instructed them
how to conduct themselves during his absence.
At eighteen he was preaching, and soon after was given a living and
placed in charge of a country parish. It was about this time, when he
was between nineteen and twenty years of age, that a copy of one of
Luther's pamphlets fell into his hands. It was a pivotal point.
Thrones were to totter, families be rent in twain, millions of minds
receive a bias! This serious, sober young priest, freshly tonsured,
took the pamphlet to his garret and read it. Then he set about to
refute it. Luther's arguments did not so much interest Calvin as did
the man himself, the man who had defied authority.
And really Calvin did not like the man: Luther's rollicking, coarse
and blunt ways repelled this studious and ascetic youth. The one thing
that Calvin admired in Luther was his self-reliance. Suddenly it came
over Calvin that life should be religion and religion should be life,
and that in the claims of the priesthood there was a deal of pretense.
In refuting Luther he grew to admire him. He resolved to eliminate the
tonsure and dress in citizens' clothes. His resolution stuck, and as
soon as his hair had grown out, he went home and told his father and
patron that he had abandoned theology and wished to study law. And so
he was sent to Orleans and placed in the office of the eminent judge,
Peter de Stella.
But theology is a matter of temperament, and instead of writing
briefs, Calvin began translating Luther's Bible into French. He was
requested to relinquish this pastime long enough to draw up a legal
opinion concerning the divorce of our old friend Henry the Eighth.
Calvin was never wrung by days of doubt nor by nights of pain. He
parted from the Church without a struggle, and adopted as his motto,
"If God be for us, who can be against us?"
He again began to preach. He was a duly ordained priest in good
standing--technically, at least--in the Catholic Church. He had all
the confidence of a sophomore--age did not wither him, nor could
custom stale his infinite variety. He questioned and contradicted
everybody, young or old, regardless of position. But so cleanly was
the man's mode of life, so intellectual, so personally unselfish and
sincere was he, that although heretics were being burned in France by
twos and sevens, yet for several years no hand was laid upon him.
Finally, in spite of the De Mommors, a legal notice was served upon
Calvin, signed by King Francis in person, asking him to desist, and
giving him three months to get back in the theological traces, making
peace with his superiors.
Calvin always had a taste for printing, and now at his own expense he
translated the "De Clementia" of Seneca into French and had the book
printed, dedicating it to the king. This was his brief for clemency
and at the same time an argument for free speech. Seneca's father had
a college of oratory, and Seneca said: "Let the people talk. If they
be right the king can not be harmed; but if they be wrong they will
merely hurt themselves: kings can afford to exercise clemency."
The book was really an insult to the king, since it assumed that
Francis had never read Seneca. This doubtless was a fact; but Francis,
instead of studying up on the old Roman, simply issued an order for
the arrest of Calvin. Calvin quit Paris in hot haste, and no doubt
thereby saved his head.
Doctor Servetus, a physician and learned monk from Spain, was then in
Paris giving popular lectures "against Lutherism and such other
similar forms of grievous error." Servetus was a "Papal Delegate"--
what we would call "a revivalist." Calvin thought Servetus had him
especially in mind. So he issued a challenge at long distance to
debate the issues publicly. Servetus accepted the challenge, but the
arrangements fell through. Calvin found refuge in Strassburg, then at
Basle, being politely sent along from each place, finally reaching
Geneva. He was then twenty-four years old.
At Geneva he at once made his presence felt by attempting to organize
a reformed or independent Catholic Church. For this he was asked to
leave, and then was expelled, living in retirement in the mountains.
Two of the syndics who had brought about his expulsion died, as even
syndics do, and Calvin returned, informing the populace that the death
of the syndics was a punishment upon them for their lack of welcome to
a good man and true.
From this time Calvin turned Geneva into a theocracy, and the city was
sacred to prayer, praise and Bible study. Students flocked from all
over Christendom to hear the new gospel expounded. They came from
Germany, France, England and Scotland. The air was full of unrest. And
among others who came out of curiosity, to study, or perhaps because
they were not needed at home, was a man from Edinburgh. He was six
years younger than Calvin, but very much like him in temperament.
His name was John Knox.
Servetus was a rhetorician, controversialist and diplomat--gentle,
considerate, gracious. He belonged to that suave and cultured type of
Catholic that wins to the Church princes and people to education and
wealth. He has been likened by John Morley to Cardinal Newman.
After Calvin reached Geneva he entered into a long correspondence
with Doctor Servetus, and the debate which had been planned was
carried on by correspondence. Servetus proposed to Calvin that the
postponed debate should take place in Geneva. Calvin replied that if
Servetus came to Geneva he would burn him alive.
Now, there were really many more Catholics in Switzerland than
dissenters, or "Protestants," and Servetus, knowing Calvin's weakness
for exaggeration, did not take his threat seriously. So Servetus
journeyed by leisurely stages southward, on his way to Naples, but he
never reached there. He stopped at Geneva, like other pilgrims, "to
study the new religion."
Geneva was the home of free speech, and this being so, Servetus had
just as good a right there as Calvin. But Calvin looked upon the
coming of Servetus as a menace, and honestly thought, no doubt, that
Servetus was in the personal employ of the Vatican, with intent to
collect evidence against "the new faith." Calvin aroused the community
into a belief that their rights were being jeopardized.
Servetus was arrested and thrown into prison. The charge was heresy--a
charge that at this safe distance makes us smile. But the humor of
heretics charging heretics with heresy, and demanding that they should
be punished, did not dawn upon John Calvin.
Heresy is a matter of longitude and time.
The trial lasted from August until September. Calvin supplied the
proof of guilt by bringing forward the many letters written him by
Servetus. The prisoner did not deny the proof, but instead sought to
defend his position. Calvin replied at length, and thus did the long-
postponed debate take place.
The judges decided in favor of Calvin.
The next day Servetus was burned alive in the public square.
"I interceded for him," said John Calvin; "I interceded for him--I
wanted him beheaded, not burned."
* * * * *
The encyclopedia records that John Knox was born at Haddington,
Scotland, in the year Fifteen Hundred Five. As to the place, there is
no doubt; but as for the time, Andrew Lang, after much research,
places the date as Fifteen Hundred Fifteen.
Usually men, eke women, bring the date of their birth forward, but
Knox with much care set his back. He justified himself in this
because, when he was twenty, he was explaining the difference between
truth and error with great precision, and to give the words weight he
added ten years to his age, explaining to a finikin friend that at
twenty he knew more than any man of thirty that could be produced. And
this was doubtless true.
John Knox came of a respectable family of the middle class. He was
independent, blunt, bold, coarse, with an underground village
vocabulary acquired in his childhood that he never quite forgot.
At the grammar-school he was the star scholar, and at Saint Andrews
quickly took front rank and set his teachers prophesying. And the
peculiar part is that all of their prophecies came true, which proves
for us that infant prodigies sometimes train on.
John Knox became a priest and a preacher of power before he was
twenty-five. In temperament he was very much such a man as Luther,
save that Luther was considerable of a joker. Luther had more common-
sense than Knox, but what Knox lacked in humor he made up in
learning. In fact, his love of learning was his chief weakness. He
was as self-reliant as a black Angus. At twenty-six Knox made a vow
that he would no longer kneel. This led to a rebuke from Cardinal
Beaton, followed by the retort courteous.
About this time he met George Wishart, and the men became fast
friends. Four years passed and a chapter in history was played that
wrenched the stern nature of John Knox, and for once broke up the icy
fastness of his heart and caused his tears to flow. That was the
burning at the stake of Wishart on the campus in front of Saint
That his Alma Mater should lend itself to such a horrible crime in the
name of justice caused Knox to break forth in curses that reached the
ears of those in power, and had he not fled, the Fate that overtook
Wishart would have been his.
George Wishart was of Scottish birth, but had spent some time in
Germany, and had caught the spirit of Luther. All accounts agree that
he was a gentle and worthy character, and very moderate in his
expressions. He was a teacher at Cambridge, and his first offense
seems to have been that he translated the New Testament from Greek
into English, without permission.
He came to Saint Andrews and gave a course of lectures, it being the
custom then for colleges to "exchange pulpits." Knox attended these
lectures and heard Wishart for the first time. The Catholics making a
demonstration against Wishart, Knox became one of a volunteer
Being on familiar terms with the great men of Edinburgh, Wishart was
chosen by Henry the Eighth for the very delicate errand of going to
Scotland and interceding for the hand in marriage of Mary Stuart, the
infant "Queen of Scots," with Edward, the infant son of our old
friend. Wishart seems to have been an unwilling tool in this matter,
and his action set Catholic Scotland violently against him.
Persecution pushed him on into unseemly speech, and Cardinal Beaton
set the sure machinery in motion that ended in the death of this
strong, earnest and simple man who had not yet reached the height of
The fires that consumed the body of George Wishart fired the heart of
John Knox, and from that hour he was the avowed foe of the papacy.
Two years later, Cardinal Beaton was assassinated by "parties
unknown." But Knox, having often cheerfully referred to Beaton as "a
son of Beelzebub," was accused of hatching the plot, even though he
did not personally take a hand in executing it.
Shortly after the death of Beaton, Knox, believing the atmosphere had
cleared, came back to Edinburgh and preached at the Castle. Soon he
had quite a following, but of people who he himself says, in his
"History of the Reformation," were "gluttons, wantons and licentious
revelers, but who yet regularly and meekly partook of the sacrament."
Knox saw plainly this peculiar paradox, that every reformer is
followed and professed by lawbreakers who consider themselves just
like him. These rogues who took the sacrament regularly were the cause
of much annoyance to Knox, and gave excuse for many accusations
Knox preached a sermon entitled, "Killing No Murder," attempting to
show how, when men used their power to subjugate other men, their
death becomes a blessing to every one.
The Castle was stormed by Catholics, in which a brigade of French took
part. Knox and various others were taken to France, and there set to
work as galley-slaves. Escaping through connivance he made his way to
Geneva, attracted by the fame of Calvin.
But his heart was in Scotland, and in a year he was back once more on
the heather calling upon the papal heathen to repent.
John Knox was in Geneva three different times. He was a heretic, too,
and his heresy was of the same kind as that of Calvin. And as two
negatives make an affirmative, so do two heretics, if they are strong
enough, transform heresy into orthodoxy. To be a heretic you have to
be in the minority and stand alone.
Calvin had a high regard for Knox, but they were too much alike to
work together in peace. Calvin was never in England, and in fact never
learned to speak English; but Knox spoke French like a native, having
improved the time while in prison in France by studying the language.
There were several hundred English refugees in Geneva, and Calvin
appointed Knox pastor of the English church. This was in Fifteen
Hundred Fifty-four, the year following the death of Servetus. Knox
deprecated the death of the Papal Delegate, but looked upon it
lightly, a mere necessity of the times, and "a due and just warning to
the Pope and the followers of the Babylonish harlot."
When Luther was forty-two he married "Catherine the Nun," a most
noble and excellent woman of about his own age, who encouraged him in
his very trying position and sustained him in time of peril.
Calvin married Idalette de Bures, the widow of an Anabaptist whom he
Calvin was not a lover by nature, and explained to the world that his
marriage was simply a harmless necessary _defi_ to Rome. Happily the
venture proved a better scheme than he wist, and after some years, he
wrote, "I would have died without the helpmeet God sent me--my wife,
who never opposed me in anything." John Knox was married when thirty-
eight to the winsome Marjorie Bowes, aged seventeen, the fifth child
of Mary Bowes, whom he had ardently wooed in his youth. His boast to
the mother that "Providence planned that you should reject me in order
that I might do better," was an indelicate slant by the right oblique.
Marjorie withered in the cold, keen atmosphere of theological
definition, and died in a few years.
And then Fate sent a close call for the Reformer in the daring,
dashing person of Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary's mother was Mary of
Guise, a French woman discreetly married to King James of Scotland.
Knox always bore a terrible hatred toward Mary of Guise, and all
French people for that matter, for his little term in the galleys.
Hisbook, "The Monstrous Regiment of Women," had Mary Tudor, Mary of
Guise, and Mary, Queen of Scots, in mind. Queen Elizabeth paid a
compliment to the worth of the author by outlawing him for "his insult
to virtuous womanhood."
Men who hate women are simply suffering from an overdose. Knox was a
woman-hater who always had one especially attractive woman upon his
list, with intent to make of her a Presbyterian. In this he was as
steadfast as the leader of a colored camp-meeting.
Mary, Queen of Scots, had no more landed on Scottish soil from
Catholic France than Knox fled, fearing for his head. Ere long he came
back and sought a personal interview with the young queen, just turned
twenty, "with intent to bring her heart to Jesus." They seemed to have
talked of other themes, for "she was exceeding French and frivolous
and stroked my beard when I sought to explain to her the wickedness of
Then Mary tried her hand at converting Knox to the "Mother Church."
And as a last inducement legend has it that she offered to marry him
if he would become a Catholic. Here John Knox coughed and hesitated--
she was getting near his price. He was he saw the devil's tail behind
her chair. He rushed from her presence, quaking with fear.
Stormy interviews followed, back up by handy epithets in which they
both proved expert. It was a pivotal point. Had John Knox married
Mary, Queen of Scots, there would have been no Presbyterian Church, no
Princeton, no Doctor McCosh, no Grover Cleveland.
On March Twentieth, Fifteen Hundred Sixty-three, the banns were read
between John Knox and Margaret "Stewart," or Stuart, daughter of Lord
Ochiltree, and a forebear of our own Tom Ochiltree. The young lady was
two months past sixteen years old. The Queen was furious, for the
girl, being of Royal blood, "should really have consulted me before
renouncing her religion for this praying and braying man with long
There was full and just cause for indignation, for although Mary was
then safely wedded to Darnley, preparing to have him assassinated (and
later to lose her own head), she yet regarded John Knox as her private
Marriage merely added another trouble to the stormy and burdened life
of our great reformer. He had successfully fought the powers of Rome;
the queenly daughter of Henry the Eighth, and Anne Boleyn had found
him incorrigible and given him up as a hopeless case; Calvin could not
tame him; but now a chit of a girl with retrousse nose, who should
have been at work in a paper-box factory, led him a merry dance, and
the voice that had thundered threat and defiance piped in forced
assent. December strawberries, I am told, lack the expected flavor.
When Knox died, he left a widow aged twenty-five, come Michaelmas. She
wore deep mourning, and so did Mary, Queen of Scots, but Mary
explained that her deep veil was merely to hide her smiles.
In two years the widow married Andrew Ker, notorious for having once
leveled a pistol at the Queen. The widow survived Knox just sixty-two
years, and died undeceived, not realizing that she had once been
wedded to a man who had shaped a great religion--one whom Carlyle, his
countryman, calls the master mind of his day.