Knox in the War of the Congregation: the Regent Attacked: Her Death: Catholicism Abolished, 1559-1560
Though the Regent was now to be deposed and attacked by armed force, Knox tells us that there were dissensions among her enemies. Some held "that the Queen was heavily done to," and that the leaders "sought another end than religion." Consequently, when the Lords with their forces arrived at Edinburgh on October 16, the local brethren showed a want of enthusiasm. The Congregation nevertheless summoned the Regent to depart from Leith, and on October 21 met at the Tolbooth to discuss her formal deposition from office. Willock moved that this might lawfully be done. Knox added, with more reserve than usual, that their hearts must not be withdrawn from their King and Queen, Mary and Francis. The Regent, too, ought to be restored when she openly repented and submitted. Willock dragged Jehu into his sermon, but Knox does not appear to have remarked that Francis and Mary were Ahab and Jezebel, idolaters. He was now in a position of less freedom and more responsibility than while he was a wandering prophet at large.

On October 24 the Congregation summoned Leith, having deposed the Regent in the name of the King and Queen, Francis and Mary, and of themselves as Privy Council! They did more. They caused one James Cocky, a gold worker, to forge the great seal of Francis and Mary, "wherewith they sealed their pretended laws and ordinances, tending to constrain the subjects of the kingdom to rebel and favour their usurpations." Their proclamations with the forged seal they issued at St. Andrews, Glasgow, Linlithgow, Perth, and elsewhere; using this seal in their letters to noblemen, who were ordered to obey Arran. The gold worker, whose name is variously spelled in the French record, says that the device for the coins which the Congregation meant to issue and ordered him to execute was on one side a cross with a crown of thorns, on the other the words VERBUM DEI. The artist, Cocky, was dilatory, and when the brethren were driven out of Edinburgh he gave the dies, unfinished, to John Achison, the chief official of the Mint, who often executed coins of Queen Mary. {158a} As Professor Hume Brown says of the audacious statement of the brethren, that they acted in the name of their King and Queen, their use of the forged Royal seal, "as covering their action with an appearance of law, served its purpose in their appeals to the people." Cocky and Kirkcaldy were hanged by Morton in 1573.

The idea of forging the great seal may have arisen in the fertile brain of Lethington, who about October 25 had at last deserted the Regent, and now took Knox's place as secretary of the Congregation. Henceforth their manifestoes say little about religion, and a great deal about the French design to conquer Scotland. {158b}

To the wit of Lethington we may plausibly attribute a proposal which, on October 25, Knox submitted to Croft. {159} It was that England should lend 1000 men for the attack on the Regent in Leith. Peace with France need not be broken, for the men may come as private adventurers, and England may denounce them as rebels. Croft declined this proposal as dishonourable, and as too clearly a breach of treaty. Knox replied that he had communicated Croft's letter "to such as partly induced me before to write" (October 29). Very probably Lethington suggested the idea, leaving the burden of its proposal on Knox. Dr. M'Crie says that it is a solitary case of the Reformer's recommending dissimulation; but the proceeding was in keeping with Knox's previous statements about the nature of the terms made in July; with the protestations of loyalty; with the lie given to Mary of Guise when she spoke, on the whole, the plain truth; and generally with the entire conduct of the prophet and of the Congregation. Dr. M'Crie justly remarks that Knox "found it difficult to preserve integrity and Christian simplicity amidst the crooked wiles of political intrigue."

On the behaviour of the godly heaven did not smile -- for the moment. Scaling-ladders had been constructed in St. Giles's church, "so that preaching was neglected." "The preachers spared not openly to say that they feared the success of that enterprise should not be prosperous," for this reason, "God could not suffer such contempt of His word . . . long to be unpunished." The Duke lost heart; the waged soldiers mutinied for lack of pay; Morton deserted the cause; Bothwell wounded Ormiston as he carried money from Croft, and seized the cash {160a} -- behaving treacherously, if it be true that he was under promise not to act against the brethren. The French garrison of Leith made successful sorties; and despite the valour of Arran and Lord James and the counsel of Lethington, the godly fled from Edinburgh on November 5, under taunts and stones cast by the people of the town.

The fugitives never stopped till they reached Stirling, when Knox preached to them. He lectured at great length on discomfitures of the godly in the Old Testament, and about the Benjamites, and the Levite and his wife. Coming to practical politics, he reminded his audience that after the accession of the Hamiltons to their party, "there was nothing heard but This lord will bring these many hundred spears . . . if this Earl be ours, no man in such a district will trouble us." The Duke ought to be ashamed of himself. Before Knox came to Scotland we know he had warned the brethren against alliance with the Hamiltons. The Duke had been on the Regent's side, "yet without his assistance they could not have compelled us to appoint with the Queen upon such unequal conditions" in the treaty of July. So the terms were in favour of the Regent, after all is said and done! {160b}

God had let the brethren fall, Knox said, into their present condition because they put their trust in man -- in the Duke -- a noble whose repentance was very dubious.

Then Knox rose to the height of the occasion. "Yea, whatsoever becomes of us and our mortal carcases, I doubt not but that this Cause (in despite of Satan) shall prevail in the realm of Scotland. For as it is the eternal truth of the eternal God, so shall it once prevail . . ." Here we have the actual genius of Knox, his tenacity, his courage in an uphill game, his faith which might move mountains. He adjured all to amendment of life, prayer, and charity. "The minds of men began to be wonderfully erected." In Arran and Lord James too, manifestly not jealous rivals, Randolph found "more honour, stoutness, and courage than in all the rest" (November 3).

Already, before the flight, Lethington was preparing to visit England. The conduct of diplomacy with England was thus in capable hands, and Lethington was a persona grata to the English Queen. Meanwhile the victorious Regent behaved with her wonted moderation. "She pursueth no man that hath showed himself against her at this time." She pardoned all burgesses of Edinburgh, and was ready to receive the Congregation to her grace, if they would put away the traitor Lethington, Balnaves, and some others. {161a} Knox, however, says that she gave the houses of the most honest men to the French. The Regent was now very ill; graviter aegrotat, say Francis and Mary (Dec.4, 1559). {161b}

The truth is that the Cause of Knox, far from being desperate, as for an hour it seemed to the faint-hearted, had never looked so well. Cecil and the English Council saw that they were committed; their gift of money was known, they must bestir themselves. While they had "nourished the garboil" in Scotland, fanned the flame, they professed to believe that France was aiming, through Scotland, at England. They arranged for a large levy of forces at Berwick; they promised money without stint: and Cecil drew up the paper adopted, as I conceive, by the brethren in their Latin appeal to all Christian princes. The Scots were to say that they originally took arms in defence of their native dynasty (the Hamiltons), Mary Stuart having no heirs of her body, and France intending to annex Scotland -- which was true enough, but was not the cause of the rising at Perth. That England is also aimed at is proved by the fact that Mary and Francis, on the seal of Scotland, quarter the arms of England. Knox himself had seen, and had imparted the fact to Cecil, a jewel on which these fatal heraldic pretensions were made. The Queen is governed by "the new authority of the House of Guise." In short, Elizabeth must be asked to intervene for these political reasons, not in defence of the Gospel, and large preparations for armed action in Scotland were instantly made. Meanwhile Cecil's sketch of the proper manifesto for the Congregation to make, was embodied in Lethington's instructions (November 24) from the Congregation, as well as adapted in their Latin appeal to Christian princes.

We may suppose that a man of Knox's unbending honesty was glad to have thrown off his functions as secretary to the brethren. Far from disclaiming their idolatrous King and Queen (the ideal policy), they were issuing proclamations headed "Francis and Mary," and bearing the forged signet. Examples with the seal were, as late as 1652, in the possession of the Erskine of Dun of that day. In them Francis and Mary denounce the Pope as Antichrist! Keith, who wrote much later, styles these proclamations "pretty singular," and Knox must have been of the same opinion.

After Lethington took the office of secretary to the Congregation, Knox had for some time no great public part in affairs. Fife was invaded by "these bloody worms," as he calls the French; and he preached what he tells us was a "comfortable sermon" to the brethren at Cupar. But Lethington had secured the English alliance: Lord Grey was to lead 4000 foot and 2000 horse to the Border; Lord Winter with fourteen ship set sail, and was incommoded by a storm, in which vessels of d'Elboeuf, with French reinforcements for the Regent, were, some lost, some driven back to harbour. As in Jacobite times, French aid to the loyal party was always unfortunate, and the arrival of Winter's English fleet in the Forth caused d'Oysel to retreat out of Fife back to Leith. He had nearly reached St. Andrews, where Knox dwelt in great agony of spirit. He had "great need of a good horse," probably because, as in October 1559, money was offered for his head. But private assassination had no terrors for the Reformer. {163}

Knox, as he wrote to a friend on January 29, 1560, had forsaken all public assemblies and retired to a life of study, because "I am judged among ourselves too extreme." When the Duke of Norfolk, with the English army, was moving towards Berwick, where he was to make a league with the Protestant nobles of Scotland, Knox summoned Chatelherault, and the gentlemen of his party, then in Glasgow. They wished Norfolk to come to them by Carlisle, a thing inconvenient to Lord James. Knox chid them sharply for sloth, and want of wisdom and discretion, praising highly the conduct of Lord James. They had "unreasonable minds." "Wise men do wonder what my Lord Duke's friends do mean, that are so slack and backward in this Cause." The Duke did not, however, write to France with an offer of submission. That story, ben trovato but not vero, rests on a forgery by the Regent! {164} The fact is that the Duke was not a true Protestant, his advisers, including his brother the Archbishop, were Catholics, and the successes of d'Oysel in winter had terrified him; but, seeing an English army at hand, he assented to the league with England at Berwick, as "second person of the realm of Scotland" (February 27, 1560). Elizabeth "accepted the realm of Scotland" -- Chatelherault being recognised as heir-apparent to the throne thereof -- for so long as the marriage of Queen Mary and Francis I. endured, and a year later. The Scots, however, remain dutiful subjects of Queen Mary, they say, except so far as lawless attempts to make Scotland a province of France are concerned. Chatelherault did not sign the league till May 10, with Arran, Huntly, Morton (at last committed to the Cause), and the usual leaders of the Congregation.

With the details of the siege of Leith, and with the attempts at negotiation, we are not here concerned. France, in fact, was powerless to aid the Regent. Since the arrival of Throckmorton in France, as ambassador of England, in the previous summer (1559), the Huguenots had been conspiring. They were in touch with Geneva, in the east; on the north, in Brittany, they appear to have been stirred up by Tremaine, a Cornish gentleman, and emissary of Cecil, who joined Throckmorton at Blois, in March 1560. Stories were put about that the young French King was a leper, and was kidnapping fair-haired children, in whose blood he meant to bathe. The Huguenots had been conspiring ever since September 1559, when they seem to have sent to Elizabeth for aid in money. {165a} More recently they had held a kind of secret convention at Nantes, and summoned bands who were to lurk in the woods, concentrate at Amboise, attack the chateau, slay the Guises, and probably put the King and Queen Mary under the Prince de Conde, who was by the plotters expected to take the part which Arran played in Scotland. It is far from certain that Conde had accepted the position. In all this we may detect English intrigue and the gold of Elizabeth. Calvin had been consulted; he disapproved of the method of the plot, still more of the plot itself. But he knew all about it. "All turns on killing Antonius," he wrote, "Antonius" being either the Cardinal or the Duc de Guise. {165b}

The conspiracy failed at Amboise, on March 17-19, 1560. Throckmorton was present, and describes the panic and perplexity of the Court, while he eagerly asks to be promptly and secretly recalled, as suspicion has fallen on himself. He sent Tremaine home through Brittany, where he gathered proposals for betraying French towns to Elizabeth, rather prematurely. Surrounded by treachery, and destitute of funds, the Guises could not aid the Regent, and Throckmorton kept advising Cecil to "strike while the iron was hot," and paralyse French designs. The dying Regent of Scotland never lost heart in circumstances so desperate.

Even before the outbreak at Perth, Mary of Guise had been in very bad health. When the English crossed the Border to beleaguer Leith, Lord Erskine, who had maintained neutrality in Edinburgh Castle, allowed her to come there to die (April 1, 1560).

On April 29, from the Castle of Edinburgh, she wrote a letter to d'Oysel, commanding in Leith. She told him that she was suffering from dropsy; "one of her legs begins to swell. . . . You know there are but three days for the dropsy in this country." The letter was intercepted by her enemies, and deciphered. {166a} On May 7, the English and Scots made an assault, and were beaten back with loss of 1000 men. According to Knox, the French stripped the fallen, and allowed the white carcases to lie under the wall, as also happened in 1746, after the English defeat at Falkirk. The Regent saw them, Knox says, from the Castle, and said they were "a fair tapestry." "Her words were heard of some," and carried to Knox, who, from the pulpit, predicted "that God should revenge that contumely done to his image . . . even in such as rejoiced thereat. And the very experience declared that he was not deceived, for within few days thereafter (yea, some say that same day) began her belly and loathsome legs to swell, and so continued, till that God did execute his judgments upon her." {166b}

Knox wrote thus on May 16, 1566. {167a} He was a little irritated at that time by Queen Mary's triumph over his friends, the murderers of Riccio, and his own hasty flight from Edinburgh to Kyle. This may excuse the somewhat unusual and even unbecoming nature of his language concerning the dying lady, but his memory was quite wrong about his prophecy. The symptoms of the Regent's malady had begun more than a week before the Anglo-Scottish defeat at Leith, and the nature of her complaint ought to have been known to the prophet's party, as her letter, describing her condition, had been intercepted and deciphered. But the deciphering may have been done in England, which would cause delay. We cannot, of course, prove that Knox was informed as to the Regent's malady before he prophesied; if so, he had forgotten the fact before he wrote as he did in 1566. But the circumstances fail to demonstrate that he had a supernormal premonition, or drew a correct deduction from Scripture, and make it certain that the Regent did not fall ill after his prophecy.

The Regent died on June 11, half-an-hour after the midnight of June 10. A report was written on June 13, from Edinburgh Castle, to the Cardinal of Lorraine, by Captain James Cullen, who some twelve years later was hanged by the Regent Morton. He says that since June 7, Lord James and Argyll, Marischal, and Glencairn, had assiduously attended on the dying lady. Two hours before her death she spoke apart for a whole hour with Lord James. Chatelherault had seen her twice, and Arran once. {167b} Knox mentions the visits of these lords, and says that d'Oysel was forbidden to speak with her, "belike she would have bidden him farewell, for auld familiarity was great."

According to Knox, the Regent admitted the errors of her policy, attributing it to Huntly, who had deserted her, and to "the wicked counsel of her friends," that is, her brothers. At the request of the Lords, she saw Willock, and said, as she naturally would, that "there was no salvation but in and by the death of Jesus Christ." "She was compelled . . . to approve the chief head of our religion, wherein we dissent from all papists and popery." Knox had strange ideas about the creed which he opposed. "Of any virtue that ever was espied in King James V. (whose daughter she," Mary Stuart, "is called"), "to this hour (1566) we have seen no sparkle to appear." {168}

With this final fling at the chastity of Mary of Guise, the Reformer takes leave of the woman whom he so bitterly hated. Yet, "Knox was not given to the practice so common in his day, of assassinating reputations by vile insinuations." Posterity has not accepted, contemporary English historians did not accept, Knox's picture of Mary of Guise as the wanton widow, the spawn of the serpent, who desired to cut the throat of every Protestant in Scotland. She was placed by circumstances in a position from which there was no issue. The fatal French marriage of her daughter was a natural step, at a moment when Scottish independence could only be maintained by help of France. Had she left the Regency in the hands of Chatelherault, that is, of Archbishop Hamilton, the prelate was not the man to put down Protestantism by persecution, and so save the situation. If he had been, Mary of Guise was not the woman to abet him in drastic violence. The nobles would have revolted against the feeble Duke. {169}

On July 6, the treaty of Edinburgh was concluded by representatives of England (Cecil was one) and of France. The Reformers carried a point of essential importance, the very point which Knox told Croft had been secured by the Appointment of July 1559. All French forces were to be dismissed the country, except one hundred and twenty men occupying Dunbar and Inchkeith, in the Firth of Forth. A clause by which Cecil thought he had secured "the kernel" for England, and left the shell to France, a clause recognising the "rightfulness" of Elizabeth's alliance with the rebels, afforded Mary Stuart ground, or excuse, for never ratifying the treaty.

It is needless here to discuss the question -- was the Convention of Estates held after the treaty, in August, a lawful Parliament? There was doubt enough, at least, to make Protestants feel uneasy about the security of the religious settlement achieved by the Convention. Randolph, the English resident, foresaw that the Acts might be rescinded.

Before the Convention of Estates met, a thanksgiving day was held by the brethren in St. Giles's, and Knox, if he was the author of the address to the Deity, said with scientific precision, "Neither in us, nor yet in our confederates was there any cause why thou shouldst have given unto us so joyful and sudden a deliverance, for neither of us both ceased to do wickedly, even in the midst of our greatest troubles." Elizabeth had lied throughout with all her natural and cultivated gift of falsehood: of the veracity of the brethren several instances have been furnished.

Ministers were next appointed to churches, Knox taking Edinburgh, while Superintendents (who were by no means Bishops) were appointed, one to each province. Erskine of Dun, a layman, was Superintendent of Angus. A new anti-Catholic Kirk was thus set up on July 20, before the Convention met and swept away Catholicism. {170} Knox preached vigorously on "the prophet Haggeus" meanwhile, and "some" (namely Lethington, Speaker in the Convention) "said in mockage, we must now forget ourselves, and bear the barrow to build the houses of God." The unawakened Lethington, and the gentry at large, merely dilapidated the houses of God, so that they became unsafe, as well as odiously squalid. That such fervent piety should grudge repairs of church buildings (many of them in a wretched state already) is a fact creditable rather to the thrift than to the state of grace of the Reformers. After all their protestations, full of texts, the lords and lairds starved their preachers, but provided, by roofless aisles and unglazed windows, for the ventilation of the kirks. These men so bubbling over with gospel fervour were, in short, when it came to practice, traitors and hypocrites; nor did Knox spare their unseemly avarice. The cause of the poor, and of the preachers, lay near his heart, and no man was more insensible of the temptations of wealth.

Lethington did not address the Parliament as Speaker till August 9. Never had such a Parliament met in Scotland. One hundred and six barons, not of the higher order, assembled; in 1567, when Mary was a prisoner and the Regent Moray held the assembly, not nearly so many came together, nor on any later occasion at this period. The newcomers claimed to sit "as of old custom"; it was a custom long disused, and not now restored to vitality.

A supplication was presented by "the Barons, gentlemen, Burgesses, and others" to "the nobility and Estates" (of whom they do not seem to reckon themselves part, contrasting themselves with "yourselves"). They reminded the Estates how they had asked the Regent "for freedom and liberty of conscience with a godly reformation of abuses." They now, by way of freedom of conscience, ask that Catholic doctrine "be abolished by Act of this Parliament, and punishment appointed for the transgressors." The Man of Sin has been distributing the whole patrimony of the Church, so that "the trew ministers," the schools, and the poor are kept out of their own. The actual clergy are all thieves and murderers and "rebels to the lawful authority of Emperors, Kings, and Princes." Against these charges (murder, rebellion, profligacy) they must answer now or be so reputed. In fact, it was the nobles, rather than the Pope, who had been robbing the Kirk, education, and the poor, which they continued to do, as Knox attests. But as to doctrine, the barons and ministers were asked to lay a Confession before the House. {172}

It will be observed that, in the petition, "Emperors, Kings, and Princes" have "lawful authority" over the clergy. But that doctrine assumes, tacitly, that such rulers are of Knox's own opinions: the Kirk later resolutely stood up against kings like James VI., Charles I., and Charles II.

The Confession was drawn up, presented, and ratified in a very few days: it was compiled in four. The Huguenots in Paris, in 1559, "established a record" by drawing up a Confession containing eighty articles in three days. Knox and his coadjutors were relatively deliberate. They aver that all points of belief necessary for salvation are contained in the canonical books of the Bible. Their interpretation pertains to no man or Church, but solely to "the spreit of God." That "spreit" must have illuminated the Kirk as it then existed in Scotland, "for we dare not receive and admit any interpretation which directly repugns to any principal point of our faith, to any other plain text of Scripture, or yet unto the rule of charity."

As we, the preachers of the Kirk then extant, were apostate monks or priests or artisans, about a dozen of us, in Scotland, mankind could not be expected to regard "our" interpretation, "our faith" as infallible. The framers of the Confession did not pretend that it was infallible. They request that, "if any man will note in this our Confession any article or sentence repugning to God's Holy Word," he will favour them with his criticism in writing. As Knox had announced six years earlier, that, "as touching the chief points of religion, I neither will give place to man or angel . . . teaching the contrair to that which ye have heard," a controversialist who thought it worth while to criticise the Confession must have deemed himself at least an archangel. Two years later, written criticism was offered, as we shall see, with a demand for a written reply. The critic escaped arrest by a lucky accident.

The Confession, with practically no criticism or opposition, was passed en bloc on August 17. The Evangel is candidly stated to be "death to the sons of perdition," but the Confession is offered hopefully to "weak and infirm brethren." Not to enter into the higher theology, we learn that the sacraments can only be administered "by lawful ministers." We learn that they are "such as are appointed to the preaching of the Word, or into whose mouth God has put some sermon of exhortation" and who are "lawfully chosen thereto by some Kirk." Later, we find that rather more than this, and rather more than some of the "trew ministeris" then had, is required.

As the document reaches us, it appears to have been "mitigated" by Lethington and Wynram, the Vicar of Bray of the Reformation. They altered, according to the English resident, Randolph, "many words and sentences, which sounded to proceed rather of some evil conceived opinion than of any sound judgment." As Lethington certainly was not "a lawful minister," it is surprising if Knox yielded to his criticism.

Lethington and Wynram also advised that the chapter on obedience to the sovereign power should be omitted, as "an unfit matter to be treated at this time," when it was not very obvious who the "magistrate" or authority might be. In this sense Randolph, Arran's English friend, wrote to Cecil. {174a} The chapter, however, was left standing. The sovereign, whether in empire, kingdom, duke, prince, or in free cities, was accepted as "of God's holy ordinance. To him chiefly pertains the reformation of the religion," which includes "the suppression of idolatry and superstition"; and Catholicism, we know, is idolatry. Superstition is less easily defined, but we cannot doubt that, in Knox's mind, the English liturgy was superstitious. {174b} To resist the Supreme Power, "doing that which pertains to his charge" (that is, suppressing Catholicism and superstition, among other things), is to resist God. It thus appears that the sovereign is not so supreme but that he must be disobeyed when his mandates clash with the doctrine of the Kirk. Thus the "magistrate" or "authority" -- the State, in fact -- is limited by the conscience of the Kirk, which may, if it pleases, detect idolatry or superstition in some act of secular policy. From this theory of the Kirk arose more than a century of unrest.

On August 24, the practical consequences of the Confession were set forth in an Act, by which all hearers or celebrants of the Mass are doomed, for the first offence, to mere confiscation of all their goods and to corporal punishment: exile rewards a repetition of the offence: the third is punished by death. "Freedom from a persecuting spirit is one of the noblest features of Knox's character," says Laing; "neither led away by enthusiasm nor party feelings nor success, to retaliate the oppressions and atrocities that disgraced the adherents of popery." {174c} This is an amazing remark! Though we do not know that Knox was ever "accessory to the death of a single individual for his religious opinions," we do know that he had not the chance; the Government, at most, and years later, put one priest to death. But Knox always insisted, vainly, that idolaters "must die the death."

To the carnal mind these rules appear to savour of harshness. The carnal mind would not gather exactly what the new penal laws were, if it confined its study to the learned Dr. M'Crie's Life of Knox. This erudite man, a pillar of the early Free Kirk, mildly remarks, "The Parliament . . . prohibited, under certain penalties, the celebration of the Mass." He leaves his readers to discover, in the Acts of Parliament and in Knox, what the "certain penalties" were. {175} The Act seems, as Knox says about the decrees of massacre in Deuteronomy, "rather to be written in a rage" than in a spirit of wisdom. The majority of the human beings then in Scotland probably never had the dispute between the old and new faiths placed before them lucidly and impartially. Very many of them had never heard the ideas of Geneva stated at all. "So late as 1596," writes Dr. Hay Fleming, "there were above four hundred parishes, not reckoning Argyll and the Isles, which still lacked ministers." "The rarity of learned and godly men" of his own persuasion, is regretted by Knox in the Book of Discipline. Yet Catholics thus destitute of opportunity to know and recognise the Truth, are threatened with confiscation, exile, and death, if they cling to the only creed which they have been taught -- after August 17, 1560. The death penalty was threatened often, by Scots Acts, for trifles. In this case the graduated scale of punishment shows that the threat is serious.

This Act sounds insane, but the Convention was wise in its generation. Had it merely abolished the persecuting laws of the Church, Scotland might never have been Protestant. The old faith is infinitely more attractive to mankind than the new Presbyterian verity. A thing of slow and long evolution, the Church had assimilated and hallowed the world-old festivals of the year's changing seasons. She provided for the human love of recreation. Her Sundays were holidays, not composed of gloomy hours in stuffy or draughty kirks, under the current voice of the preacher. Her confessional enabled the burdened soul to lay down its weight in sacred privacy; her music, her ceremonies, the dim religious light of her fanes, naturally awaken religious emotion. While these things, with the native tendency to resist authority of any kind, appealed to the multitude, the position of the Church, in later years, recommended itself to many educated men in Scotland as more logical than that of Knox; and convert after convert, in the noble class, slipped over to Rome. The missionaries of the counter-Reformation, but for the persecuting Act, would have arrived in a Scotland which did not persecute, and the work of the Convention of 1560 might all have been undone, had not the stringent Act been passed.

That Act apparently did not go so far as the preachers desired. Thus Archbishop Hamilton, writing to Archbishop Beaton in Paris, the day after the passing of the Act, says, "All these new preachers openly persuade the nobility in the pulpit, to put violent hands, and slay all churchmen that will not concur and adopt their opinion. They only reproach my Lord Duke" (the Archbishop's brother), "that he will not begin first, and either cause me to do as they do, or else to use rigour on me by slaughter, sword, or, at least, perpetual prison." {177a} It is probable that the Archbishop was well informed as to what the bigots were saying, though he is not likely to have "sat under" them; moreover, he would hear of their advice from his brother, the Duke, with whom he had just held a long conference. {177b} Lesley, Bishop of Ross, in his "History," praises the humanity of the nobles, "for at this time few Catholics were banished, fewer were imprisoned, and none were executed." The nobles interfering, the threatened capital punishment was not carried out. Mob violence, oppression by Protestant landlords, Kirk censure, imprisonment, fine, and exile, did their work in suppressing idolatry and promoting hypocrisy.

No doubt this grinding ceaseless daily process of enforcing Truth, did not go far enough for the great body of the brethren, especially the godly burgesses of the towns; indeed, as early as June 10, 1560, the Provost, Bailies, and Town Council of Edinburgh proclaimed that idolaters must instantly and publicly profess their conversion before the Ministers and Elders on the penalty of the pillory for the first offence, banishment from the town for the second, and death for the third. {177c}

It must always be remembered that the threat of the death penalty often meant, in practice, very little. It was denounced, under Mary of Guise (February 9, 1559), against men who bullied priests, disturbed services, and ate meat in Lent. It was denounced against shooters of wild fowl, and against those, of either religious party, who broke the Proclamation of October 1561. Yet "nobody seemed one penny the worse" as regards their lives, though the punishments of fining and banishing were, on occasions, enforced against Catholics.

We may marvel that, in the beginning, Catholic martyrs did not present themselves in crowds to the executioner. But even under the rule of Rome it would not be easy to find thirty cases of martyrs burned at the stake by "the bloudie Bishops," between the fifteenth century and the martyrdom of Myln. By 1560 the old Church was in such a hideous decline -- with ruffianly men of quality in high spiritual places; with priests who did not attend Mass, and in many cases could not read; with churches left to go to ruin; with license so notable that, in one foundation, the priest is only forbidden to keep a constant concubine -- that faith had waxed cold, and no Catholic felt "ripe" for martyrdom. The elements of a League, as in France, did not exist. There was no fervently Catholic town population like that of Paris; no popular noble warriors, like the Ducs de Guise, to act as leaders. Thus Scotland, in this age, ran little risk of a religious civil war. No organised and armed faction existed to face the Congregation. When the counter-Reformation set in, many Catholics endured fines and exile with constancy.

The theology of the Confession of Faith is, of course, Calvinistic. No "works" are, technically, "good" which are not the work of the Spirit of our Lord, dwelling in our hearts by faith. "Idolaters," and wicked people, not having that spirit, can do no good works. The blasphemy that "men who live according to equity and justice shall be saved, what religion soever they have professed," is to be abhorred. "The Kirk is invisible," consisting of the Elect, "who are known only to God." This gave much cause of controversy to Knox's Catholic opponents. "The notes of the true Church" are those of Calvin's. As to the Sacrament, though the elements be not the natural body of Christ, yet "the faithful, in the right use of the Lord's Table, so do eat the body and drink the blood of the Lord Jesus that He remains in them and they in Him . . . in such conjunction with Christ Jesus as the natural man cannot comprehend."

This is a highly sacramental and confessedly mystical doctrine, not less unintelligible to "the natural man" than the Catholic theory which Knox so strongly reprobated. Alas, that men called Christian have shed seas of blood over the precise sense of that touching command of our Lord, which, though admitted to be incomprehensible, they have yet endeavoured to comprehend and define!

A serious task for Knox was to draw up, with others, a "Book of the Policy and Discipline of the Kirk," a task entrusted to them in April 1560. In politics, till January 1561, the Lords hoped that they might induce Elizabeth (then entangled with Leicester, as Knox knew) to marry Arran, but whether "Glycerium" (as Bishop Jewel calls her) had already detected in "the saucy youth" "a half crazy fool," as Mr. Froude says, or not, she firmly refused. She much preferred Lord Robert Dudley, whose wife had just then broken her neck. The unfortunate Arran had fought resolutely, Knox tells us, by the side of Lord James, in the winter of 1559, but he already, in 1560, showed strange moods, and later fell into sheer lunacy. In December died "the young King of France, husband to our Jezebel -- unhappy Francis . . . he suddenly perished of a rotten ear . . . in that deaf ear that never would hear the truth of God" (December 5, 1560). We have little of Knox's poetry, but he probably composed a translation, in verse, of a Latin poem indited by one of "the godly in France," whence he borrowed his phrase "a rotten ear" (aure putrefacta corruit).

"Last Francis, that unhappy child,
His father's footsteps following plain,
To Christ's crying deaf ears did yield,
A rotten ear was then his bane."

The version is wonderfully close to the original Latin.

Meanwhile, Francis was hardly cold before Arran wooed his idolatrous widow, Queen Mary, "with a gay gold ring." She did not respond favourably, and "the Earl bare it heavily in his heart, and more heavily than many would have wissed," says Knox, with whom Arran was on very confidential terms. Knox does not rebuke his passion for Jezebel. He himself "was in no small heaviness by reason of the late death of his dear bedfellow, Marjorie Bowes," of whom we know very little, except that she worked hard to lighten the labours of Knox's vast correspondence. He had, as he says, "great intelligence both with the churches and some of the Court of France," and was the first to receive news of the perilous illness of the young King. He carried the tidings to the Duke and Lord James, at the Hamilton house near Kirk o' Field, but would not name his informant. Then came the news of the King's death from Lord Grey de Wilton, at Berwick, and a Convention of the Nobles was proclaimed for January 15, 1561, to "peruse newly over again" the Book of Discipline.

chapter xi knoxs intrigues and
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