Select practical writings of John Knox
Banner of Truth
295 pages, £16.00
Apart from his History of the Reformation in Scotland, John Knox published very little. He is one of those sixteenth century reformers more spoken and written about, and misunderstood, than read.
It is good, therefore, that some of his writings have again been made available. The Banner of Truth is to be commended for reprinting, in an attractive re-typeset form, the Select practical writings first published by the Free Church of Scotland in 1845.
The book is essentially in two parts. The first, making up the major part, comprises treatises, addresses, open letters, sermons and expositions written within the context of the political and ecclesiastical issues and movements of the time.
Though naturally relevant to the times in which they were composed, they also have a timeless application, addressing as they do the issues of encouraging and stirring up Christians to faithfulness in the face of antagonism.
For example, in chapter 6, there is, ‘A most wholesome counsel how to behave ourselves in the midst of this wicked generation, touching the daily exercise of God’s most holy and sacred word’ (pp.123ff). He also deals practically with such controverted issues as how to view Roman Catholic baptism (pp.197ff).
The latter part of the volume reproduces several letters, mostly to his mother-in-law Elizabeth Bowes (pp.249ff). These naturally give insight into Knox’s character of a more personal and homely nature. They also reveal his spirituality.
As he wrote in one such epistle: ‘Give us, O Lord, hearts to visit thee in time of our affliction; and that albeit we see none end of our dolours [pain, grief, anguish], that yet our faith and hope may conduct us to the assured hope of that joyful resurrection, in the which, we shall possess the fruit of that for the which we now travail!'(p.247).
This is a valuable collection of practical writings of the great Scottish Reformer. The language is not easy and the writing style is not elegant. Nevertheless, it will repay study and stir the heart.
John W. Keddie
Isle of Skye