By Ron Smith
John Knox was the great Reformer and apostle of the reformation in Scotland during the 16th century. He prayed, “God give me Scotland or I die!” God answered that prayer with the greatest reformation of any country.
Modern day Reformers, being influenced by the Enlightenment, would not be comfortable with such a charismatic prophet today. They would say that these gifts passed away when the New Testament was completed. Let us observe with an open mind what the witnesses of that day recorded. May God give us another to come in the spirit and power of Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord.
In 1572 Charles IX of France had the godly Admiral of France murdered. This was followed up with the general massacre of the Protestants throughout France. Seventy thousand were murdered. “For several days the streets of Paris literally ran with blood. The savage monarch, standing at the windows of the palace, with his courtiers, glutted his eyes with the inhuman spectacle, and amused himself with firing upon the miserable fugitives who sought shelter at his merciless gates.” “Hired cut-throats, and fanatical cannibals marched from city to city, paraded the streets, and entered into the houses of those that were marked out for destruction. No reverence was shown to the hoary head, no respect to rank or talents, no pity to tender age or sex. Aged matrons, women upon the point of their delivery, and children, were trodden under the feet of the assassins, or dragged with hooks into the rivers; others, after being thrown into prison, were instantly brought out, and butchered in cold blood.”
“The intelligence of this massacre (for which a solemn thanksgiving was offered up at Rome by order of the Pope) produced the same horror and consternation in Scotland as in every other Protestant country. It inflicted a deep wound on the exhausted spirit of Knox. Besides the blow struck at the whole Reformed body, he had to lament the loss of many individuals eminent for piety, learning, and rank, whom he numbered among his acquaintances. Being conveyed to the pulpit [in his old age], and summoning up the remainder of his strength, he thundered the vengeance of Heaven against that cruel murderer and false traitor, the King of France, and desired Le Croc, the French ambassador, to tell his master, that sentence was pronounced against him in Scotland, that the divine vengeance would never depart from him, nor from his house, if repentance did not ensue; but his name would remain an execration to posterity, and none proceeding from his loins would enjoy that kingdom in peace. The ambassador complained of the indignity offered to his master, and required the Regent to silence the preacher; but this was refused, upon which he left Scotland.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)
This prophecy was fulfilled less than two years later when Charles IX died at the age of 24 and left no heir to the throne.
The Prophecy Concerning Thomas Maitland
Shortly after a godly friend of Knox had been murdered, Knox entered the pulpit and found a note. Thinking it was probably a prayer request he silently read it. It was a slanderous note referring to the murdered friend. Not knowing who had written it, Knox said, concerning the author of the note, “That wicked man, whosoever he be, shall not go unpunished, and shall die where there shall be none to lament him.” The man who had written it went home and told his sister “that the preacher was raving, when he spoke in such a manner of a person who was unknown to him; but she understanding that her brother had written the line, reproved him, saying with tears, that none of that man’s denunciations were wont to prove idle.” That man (Thomas Maitland) later died in Italy, “having no known person to attend him.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)
The Queen’s Testimony
“John Knox was an eminent wrestler with God in prayer, and like a prince prevailed. The Queen Regent herself had given him this testimony, when upon a particular occasion she said that she was more afraid of his prayers than of an army of ten thousand men. He was likewise warm and pathetic in his preaching, in which such prophetical expressions as dropped from him had the most remarkable accomplishment. As an instance of this, when he was confined in the castle of St Andrews, he foretold both the manner of their surrender, and their deliverance from the French galleys; and when the Lords of the Congregation were twice discomfited by the French army, he assured them that the Lord would ultimately prosper the work of Reformation.” (THE SCOTS WORTHIES, by John Howie)
When Queen Mary refused to attend Knox’s preaching, he sent word that she would yet be obliged to hear the Word of God whether she like it or not. This was fulfilled when she was arraigned in England.
On another occasion, Knox told the queen’s husband, “Have you, for the pleasure of that dainty dame, cast the psalm-book into the fire? The Lord shall strike both head and tail.” Both King and queen died violent deaths. (THE SCOTS WORTHIES, by John Howie)
The Prophecy Concerning William Kircaldy of Grange
“He likewise said, when the Castle of Edinburgh held out for the Queen against the Regent, that ‘the Castle should spue out the captain (meaning Sir William Kircaldy of Grange) with shame, that he should not come out at the gate, but over the wall, and that the tower called Davis Tower, should run like a sand-glass [an hour glass]; which was fulfilled a few years after – Kircaldy being obliged to come over the wall on a ladder, with a staff in his hand, and the said fore-work [front] of the Castle running down like a sand-brae [sandy hill].” .” (THE SCOTS WORTHIES, by John Howie)
Knox’s Defense of His Predictions
Thomas M’Crie tells us that John Knox has been “accused of setting [himself up as] a prophet, presuming to intrude into the secret counsel of God, and of enthusiastically confounding the suggestions of his own imagination, and the effusions of his own spirit, with the dictates of inspiration, and immediate communications from heaven. Let us examine the grounds of this accusation a little. It is proper to hear his own statement of the [basis] upon which he proceeded in many of those warnings which have been [called] predictions. Having in one of his treatises, denounced the judgments to which the inhabitants of England exposed themselves, by renouncing the gospel and returning to idolatry, he gives the following explanation of the [basis] which he had for his threats. He told them if they wanted to know the grounds of his assurance, he hoped they would understand and believe. He said, ‘My assurances are not the marvels of Merlin, nor yet the dark sentences of profane prophecies; but the plain truth of God’s Word, the invincible justice of the everlasting God, and the ordinary course of His punishments and plagues from the beginning are my assurance and grounds. God’s Word threatens destruction to all the disobedient; his immutable justice must require the same; the ordinary punishments and plagues show examples. What man then can cease to prophesy?’ We find him expressing himself in a similar way in his defenses of the threats, which he uttered against those who had been guilty of the murder of King Henry, and the Regent Moray. He denies that he had spoken ‘as one that entered into the secret counsel of God.’ And insists that he had merely declared the judgment which was pronounced in the divine law. In so far then his threatenings, or predictions (for so he repeatedly calls them) do not stand in need of an apology.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)
“There are, however, several of his sayings which cannot be vindicated upon these principles, and which he himself rested upon different grounds. Of this kind were, the assurance which he expressed, from the beginning of the Scottish troubles, that the cause of the Congregation would ultimately prevail; his confident hope of again preaching in his native country [when he was a galley slave], and at St Andrews, avowed by him during his imprisonment on board the French galleys, and frequently repeated during his exile; with the intimations [predictions] he gave respecting the death of Thomas Maitland, and Kircaldy of Grange. It cannot be denied that his contemporaries considered these as proceeding from a prophetic spirit, and have attested that they received an exact [fulfillment]. The most easy way of getting rid of this delicate question is, by dismissing it at once, and summarily pronouncing that all pretensions to extraordinary premonitions, since the completing of the canon [the Bible], are unwarranted, that they ought, without examination, to be discarded and treated as fanciful and visionary. Nor would this fix any peculiar imputation on the character or talents of our Reformer [Knox], when it is considered that the most learned persons of that age were under the influence of a still greater weakness, and strongly addicted to the belief of judicial astrology. But I doubt much if this method of determining the question would be consistent with doing justice to the subject. I cannot propose to enter into it in this place, and must confine myself to a few general observations. On the one hand, the disposition which mankind discover to pry into the secrets of futurity, has been always accompanied with much credulity, and superstition; and it cannot be denied, that the age in which our Reformer lived was prone to credit the marvelous, especially as to the infliction of divine judgments upon individuals. On the other had, there is great danger of running into skepticism, and of laying down general principles which may lead us obstinately to contest the truth of the best authenticated facts, and even to limit the Spirit of God, and the operation of providence. This is an extreme to which the present age inclines. That there have been instances of persons having presentiments and premonitions as to events that happened to themselves and others, there is, I think, the best reason to believe. The strong spirits, who laugh at vulgar credulity, and exert their ingenuity in accounting for such phenomena upon ordinary principles, have been exceedingly puzzled with theses, a great deal more puzzled than they have confessed; and the solution which they have given are, in some instances, as mysterious as any thing included in the intervention of superior spirits, or divine intimations. The canon of our faith is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; we must not look to impressions or new revelations as the rule of our duty; but that God may, on particular occasions, forewarn persons of some things which shall happen, to testify His approbation of them, to encourage them to confide in Him in peculiar circumstances, or for other useful purposes, is not, I think, inconsistent with the principles of either natural or revealed religion. If this is enthusiasm, it is an enthusiasm into which some of the most enlightened and sober men, in modern as well as ancient times, have fallen. Some of the Reformers were men of singular piety; they ‘walked with God’; they were ‘instant in prayer’; they were exposed to uncommon opposition, and had uncommon services to perform; they were endued with extraordinary gifts, and, I am inclined to believe, were occasionally favored with extraordinary premonitions, with respect to certain events which concerned themselves, other individuals, or the Church in general. But whatever intimations of this kind they enjoyed, they did not rest the authority of their mission upon them, nor appeal to them as constituting any part of the evidence of those doctrines which they preached to the world.” (THE LIFE OF JOHN KNOX, by Thomas M’Crie)