John Knox - First Sermon (1547)

John Knox must have been high on Cardinal Beaton?s list himself, so was probably saved persecution by the Cardinal being killed by people who were angry at Wishart's death. For the next fifteen months though Knox had to move from place to place as he knew he was in danger. Strangely his pupils went with him. Those who had killed Beaton at St Andrew's Castle, fortified themselves there and resisted all attempts to drive them out by the Regent, Arran. Others who had been persecuted joined the force there, so it became a kind of 'cause celebre.' In January 1547 there was a truce whereby the Regent withdrew and tried to get a pardon from the Pope for the Cardinal's killing, whilst the occupiers promised not to hand the fortress to the English. Knox was tired of trying to avoid the authorities, so he decided to leave Scotland for Germany, however the fathers of his pupils persuaded him to join those at St Andrew?s Castle. During the time of truce, people were able to come and go as they pleased. Knox arrived on April 10th with his pupils, and he immediately began to teach and talk about the new faith. By now there were about 150 in the castle, and they immediately understood the quality of Knox's ideas and teachings, so two men asked him to help with the preaching, but Knox refused, believing that God had not called him to this. The two men were not put off, they consulted everyone, and at one church meeting the preacher gave a sermon on the election of ministers; then turned to Knox, calling him again to preach. The whole congregation concurred. Knox burst into tears and locked himself in his room for several days, trying to discover the will of God. Finally, he accepted the commission, which began his career as a preacher. His first sermon was in the parish church, which included university staff and a number of clergy. He spoke powerfully about the abuses of the Pope and the papal system. This caused a sensation. "Others lopped the branches of the Papistrie," said some of his hearers, "but he strikes at the root to destroy the whole." Hamilton and Wishart had stopped short of this. They had condemned abuses and pointed out the doctrinal errors in which these abuses had their source, and they had called for a purging out of scandalous persons ? in short, a reform of the existing Church. Knox came with the axe in his hand to cut down the rotten tree. The authorities were worried, so they arranged for the parish church pulpit to be filled every Sunday to prevent the majority of people hearing Knox. However, Knox preached every weekday to large crowds, giving the Protestant communion to those inside and outside the walls of the castle. In June the Regent attacked the castle again, this time a French fleet came to help, so the castle was unable to resist such forces, so a surrender was negotiated. Those who had not been killed, including Knox, were put on French ships as prisoners. They were told that they were being taken to France, from where they could go anywhere except Scotland. However they were deceived, some being imprisoned in Rouen, with others like Knox being chained to an oar in a galley ship. The conditions on the galleys were dire, some dying of fever or from their bodies just breaking down. In the nineteen months Knox was a galley slave he became very weak, almost dying, and his experiences did lasting damage to his health. Knox was always sure that he would preach again in Scotland and so it proved as he and the others were released after nineteen months.