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courage; the Cause they had was the true one, and must and would
prosper; the whole world could not put it down. Reality is of God's making ; it is alone strong. How many pented bredds, pretending to be real, are fitter to swim than to be worshipped !—This Knox cannot live but by fact : he clings to reality as the shipwrecked sailor to the cliff. He is an instance to us how a man, by sincerity itself, becomes heroic : it is the grand gift he has. We find in Knox a good honest intellectual talent, no transcendent one ;-a narrow, inconsiderable man, as compared with Luther: but in heartfelt instinctive adherence to truth, in sincerity, as we say, he has no superior ; nay, one might ask, What equal he has ? The heart of him is of the true Prophet cast. · He lies there,” said the Earl of Morton at his grave, “who never feared the face of man." He resembles, more than any of the moderns, an Old-Hebrew Prophet. The same inflexibility, intolerance, rigid narrowlooking adherence to God's truth, stern rebuke in the name of God to all that forsake truth : an Old-Hebrew Prophet in the guise of an Edinburgh Minister of the Sixteenth Century: We are to take him for that ; not require him to be other.
Knox's conduct to Queen Mary, the harsh visits he used to make in her own palace, to reprove her there, have been much commented upon. Such cruelty, such coarseness fills us with indignation. On reading the actual narrative of the business, what Knox said, and what Knox meant, I must say one's tragic feeling is rather disappointed. They are not so coarse, these speeches; they seem to me about as fine as the circumstances would permit! Knox was not there to do the courtier ; he came on another errand. Whoever, reading these colloquies of his with the Queen, thinks they are vulgar insolences of a plebeian priest to a delicate high lady, mistakes the purport and essence of them altogether. It was unfortunately not possible to be polite with the Queen of Scotland, unless one proved untrue to the Nation and Cause of Scotland. A man who did not wish to see the land of his birth made a hunting-field for intriguing ambitious Guises, and the Cause of God trampled underfoot of Falsehoods, Formulas and the Devil's Cause, had no method of making himself agreeable! " Better that women weep,” said Morton, “than that bearded men be forced to weep." Knox was the constitutional opposition-party in Scotland : the Nobles of the country, called by their station to take that post, were not found in it; Knox had to go, or no one. The hapless Queen ;— but the still more hapless Country, if she were made happy! Mary herself was not without sharpness enough, among her other qualities : “Who are you,” said she once, “that presume to school the nobles and sovereign of this realm ?"- Madam, a subject born within the same," answered he. Reasonably answered ! If the subject' have truth to speak, it is not the subject's footing that will fail him here.
We blame Knox for his intolerance. Well, surely it is good that each of us be as tolerant as possible. Yet, at bottom, after all the talk there is and has been about it, what is tolerance ? Tolerance has to tolerate the unessential; and to see well what that is. Tolerance has to be noble, measured, just in its very wrath, when it can tolerate no longer. But, on the whole, we are not altogether here to tolerate! We are here to resist, to control and vanquish withal. We do not “tolerate’ Falsehoods, Thieveries, Iniquities, when they fasten on us; we say to them, Thou art false, thou art not tolerable ! We are here to extinguish Falsehoods, and put an end to them, in some wise way! I will not quarrel so much with the way ; the doing of the thing is our great concern. In this sense Knox was, full surely, intolerant.
A man sent to row in French Galleys, and suchlike, for teaching the Truth in his own land, cannot always be in the mildest humour! I am not prepared to say that Knox had a soft temper; nor do I know that he had what we call an ill temper. An ill nature he decidedly had not. Kind honest affections dwelt in the much-enduring, hard-worn, ever-battling
That he could rebuke Queens, and had such weight among those proud turbulent Nobles, proud enough whatever else they were ; and could maintain to the end a kind of virtual Presidency and Sovereignty in that wild realm, he who was only 'a subject born within the same :' this of itself will prove to us that he was found, close at hand, to be no mean acrid man; but at heart a healthful, strong, sagacious man. Such alone can bear rule in that kind. They blame him for pulling-down cathedrals, and so forth, as if he were a seditious rioting demagogue : precisely the reverse is seen to be the fact, in regard to cathedrals and the rest of it, if we examine ! Knox wanted no pulling-down of stone edifices; he wanted leprosy and darkness to be thrown out of the lives of men. Tumult was not his element; it was the tragic feature of his life that he was forced to dwell so much in that. Every such man is the born enemy of Disorder ; hates to be in it : but what then? Smooth Falsehood is not Order ; it is the general sumtotal of Disorder. Order is Truth,—each thing standing on the basis that belongs to it: Order and Falsehood cannot subsist together.
Withal, unexpectedly enough, this Knox has a vein of drollery in him ; which I like much, in combination with his other qualities. He has a true eye for the ridiculous. His History, with its rough earnestness, is curiously enlivened with this. When the two Prelates, entering Glasgow Cathedral, quarrel about precedence; march rapidly up, take to hustling one another, twitching one another's rochets, and at last flourishing their crosiers like quarter-staves, it is a great sight for him everyway! Not mockery, scorn, bitterness alone; though there is enough of that too. But a true, loving, illuminating laugh mounts-up over the earnest visage; not a loud laugh ; you would say, a laugh in the eyes most of all. An honest-hearted, brotherly man; brother to the high, brother also to the low; sincere in his sympathy with both. He had his pipe of Bourdeaux too, we find, in that old Edinburgh house of his; a cheery social man, with faces that loved him! They go far wrong who think this Knox was a gloomy, spasmodic, shrieking fanatic. Not at all: he is one of the solidest of men. Practical, cautioushopeful, patient; a most shrewd, observing, quietly discerning man. In fact, he has very much the type of character we assign to the Scotch at present: a certain sardonic taciturnity is in him; insight enough; and a stouter heart than he himself knows of. He has the power of holding his peace over many: things which do not vitally concern him, —"They? what are they?" But the thing which does vitally concern him, that thing he will speak of; and in a tone the whole world shall be made to hear : all the more emphatic for his long silence.
This Prophet of the Scotch is to me no hateful man!-He had a sore fight of an existence : wrestling with Popes and Principalities; in defeat, contention, life-long struggle; rowing as a galley-slave, wandering as an exile. sore fight : but he won it. “Have you hope?" they asked him in his last moment, when he could no longer speak. He lifted his finger, ‘pointed upwards with his finger,' and so died. Honour to him !
His works have not died. The letter of his work dies, as of all men's; but the spirit of it never.
One word more as to the letter of Knox's work. The unforgivable offence in him is, that he wished to set-up Priests over the head of Kings. In other words, he strove to make the Government of Scotland a Theocracy. This indeed is properly the sum of his offences, the essential sin; for which what pardon can there be ? It is most true, he did, at bottom, consciously or unconsciously, mean a Theocracy, or Government of God. He did mean that Kings and Prime Ministers, and all manner of persons, in public or private, diplomatising or whatever else they might be doing, should walk according to the Gospel of Christ, and understand that this was their Law, supreme over all laws.
He hoped once to see such a thing realised ; and the Petition, Thy Kingdom come, no longer an empty word. He was sore grieved when he saw greedy worldly Barons clutch hold of the Church's property; when he expostulated that it was not secular property, that it was spiritual property, and should be turned to true churchly uses, education, schools, worship ;—and the Regent Murray to answer, with a shrug of the shoulders, “It is a devout imagination !” This was Knox's scheme of right and truth; this he zealously endeavoured after, to realise it. If we think his scheme of truth was too narrow, was not true, we may rejoice that he could not realise it ; that it remained after two centuries of effort, unrealisable, and is a devout imagination' still. But how shall we blame him for struggling to realise it? Theocracy, Government of God, is precisely the thing to be struggled for! Prophets, zealous Priests, are there for that purpose. Hildebrand wished a Theocracy; Cromwell wished it, fought for it; Mahomet attained it. Nay, is it not what all zealous men, whether called Priests, Prophets, or whatsoever else called, do
essentially wish, and must wish? That right and truth, or God's Law, reign supreme among men, this is the Heavenly Ideal (well named in Knox's time, and namable in all times, a revealed Will of God') towards which the Reformer will insist that all be more and more approximated. All true Reformers, as I said, are by the nature of them Priests, and strive for a Theocracy.
How far such Ideals can ever be introduced into Practice, and at what point our impatience with their non-introduction ought to begin, is always a question. I think we may say safely, Let them introduce themselves as far as they can contrive to do it! If they are the true faith of men, all men ought to be more or less impatient always where they are not found introduced. There will never be wanting Regent-Murrays enough to shrug their shoulders, and say, A devout imagination !" We will praise the Hero-priest rather, who does what is in him to bring them in; and wears-out, in toil, calumny, contradiction, a noble life, to make a God's Kingdom of this Earth. The Earth will not become too godlike !