500th Anniversary of John Knox
My former denomination, the OPC, has a double celebration of the 500 year anniversary of the birth of the Scottish reformer, John Knox. Both the denominational magazine, New Horizons, and the ministerial magazine, Ordained Servant, have special issues focussing on Knox. (Find both at http://opc.org ) Of particular interest are the articles “John Knox and Public Prayer” by Glen J. Clary and “John Knox and the Reformation of Worship” by Gregory E. Reynolds. Sadly, the liturgical riches of Knox and the Scottish Reformation have been all but lost among evangelical Presbyterians in Scotland.
The Death of Knox, from Thomas McRie’s “Life of John Knox”
Monday, the 24th of November, was the last day that he spent on earth. That morning he could not be persuaded to lie in bed, but, though unable to stand alone, rose between nine and ten o'clock, and put on his stockings and doublet. Being conducted to a chair, he sat about half an hour, and then was put to bed again. In the progress of the day, it appeared evident that his end drew near. Besides his wife and Bannatyne, Campbell of Kinyeancleuch, Johnston of Elphingston, and Dr. Preston, three of his most intimate acquaintance, sat by turns at his bedside. Kinyeancleuch asked him if he had any pain. "It is no painful pain, but such a pain as shall soon, I trust, put end to the battle. I must leave the care of my wife and children to you," continued he, "to whom you must be a husband in my room." About three o'clock in the afternoon, one of his eyes failed, and his speech was considerably affected. He desired his wife to read the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians. “Is not that a comfortable chapter ?" said he, when it was finished. "What sweet and salutary consolation the Lord has afforded me from that chapter !" A little after he said, "Now, for the last time, I commend my soul, spirit, and body (touching three of his fingers), into thy hand, Lord." About five o'clock, he said to his wife, " Go, read where I cast my first anchor ;" upon which she read the seventeenth chapter of John's Gospel, and afterwards a part of Calvin's sermons on the Ephesians.
After this he appeared to fall into a slumber, interrupted by heavy moans, during which the attendants looked every moment for his dissolution. But at length he awaked, as if from sleep, and being asked the cause of his sighing so deeply, replied, — "I have formerly, during my frail life, sustained many contests, and many assaults of Satan ; but at present he hath assailed me most fearfully, and put forth all his strength to devour, and make an end of me at once. Often before has he placed my sins before my eyes, often tempted me to despair, often endeavoured to ensnare me by the allurements of the world ; but these weapons were broken by the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and the enemy failed. Now he has attacked me in another way : the cunning serpent has laboured to persuade me that I have merited heaven and eternal blessedness by the faithful discharge of my ministry. But blessed be God, who has enabled me to beat down and quench this fiery dart, by suggesting to me such passages of Scripture as these: — “What hast thou that thou hast not received ? — By the grace of God I am what I am : — Not I, but the grace of God in me.' Upon this, as one vanquished, he left me. Wherefore I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ, who has been pleased to give me the victory; and I am persuaded that the tempter shall not again attack me, but, within a short time, I shall, without any great pain of body or anguish of mind, exchange this mortal and miserable life for a blessed immortality through Jesus Christ."
He then lay quiet for some hours, except that now and then he desired them to wet his mouth with a little weak ale. At ten o'clock, they read the evening prayer, which they had delayed beyond the usual lour, from an apprehension that he was asleep. After this exercise was concluded, Dr. Preston asked him if he had heard the prayers. "Would to God," said he, "that you and all men had heard them as I have heard them; I praise God for that heavenly sound." The doctor rose up, and Kinyeancleugh sat down before his bed. About eleven o'clock, he gave a deep sigh, and said, "Now it is come." Bannatyne immediately drew near, and desired him to think upon those comfortable promises of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which he had so often declared to others ; and, perceiving that he was speechless, requested him to give them a sign that he heard them, and died in peace. Upon this he lifted up one of his hands, and, sighing twice, expired without a struggle.”
Would that Scotland were again blessed with men of Knox's faith.