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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

He accompanied Wishart in December and January 1545


Assassination

was a not infrequent way of getting rid of a political opponent in the sixteenth century, and Beaton's death had long been planned, not without secret promptings from England. Three months after Wishart's martyrdom (May 29th, 1546), Norman Lesley and Kirkcaldy of Grange at the head of a small band of men broke into the Castle of St. Andrews and slew the Cardinal. They held the stronghold, and the castle became a place of refuge for men whose lives were threatened by the Government, and who sympathised with the English alliance. The Government laid siege to the place but were unable to take it, and their troops withdrew. John Rough, who had been Arran's Reformed chaplain, joined the company, and began to preach to the people of St. Andrews. Knox, who had become a marked man, and had thought of taking refuge in Germany, was persuaded to enter the castle, and there, sorely against his will, he was almost forced to stand forth as a preacher of the Word. His first sermon placed him at once in the foremost rank of Scottish Reformers, and men began to predict that he would share the fate of Wishart. "Master George Wishart spak never so plainelye, and yitt he was brunt: evin so will he be."[288]

Next to nothing is known about the early history of John Knox. He came into the world at or near Haddington in the year 1515,[289] but on what day or month remains hidden. He sprang from the commons of Scotland, and his forebears were followers of the Earls of

Bothwell; he was a papal notary, and in priest's orders in 1540; he was tutor to the sons of the lairds of Ormiston and Longniddry in 1545; he accompanied Wishart in December and January 1545, 1546--these are the facts known about him before he was called to stand forward as a preacher of the Reformation in Scotland. He was then thirty-two--a silent, slow ripening man, with quite a talent for keeping himself in the background.

Knox's work in the castle and town of St. Andrews was interrupted by the arrival of a French fleet (July 1547), which battered the walls with artillery until the castle was compelled to surrender. He and all the inmates were carried over to France. They had secured as terms of surrender that their lives should be spared; that they should be safely transported to France; and that if they could not accept the terms there offered to them by the French King, they should be allowed to depart to any country they might select for their sojourn, save Scotland. It was not the custom, however, for French kings to keep promises made to heretics, and Knox and his companions were made galley-slaves. For nineteen months he had to endure this living death, which for long drawn out torture can only be compared with what the Christians of the earliest centuries had to suffer when they were condemned to the mines. He had to sit chained with four or six others to the rowing benches, which were set at right angles to the side of the ship, without change of posture by day, and compelled to sleep, still chained, under the benches by night; exposed to the elements day and night alike; enduring the lash of the overseer, who paced up and down the gangway which ran between the two lines of benches; feeding on the insufficient meals of coarse biscuit and porridge of oil and beans; chained along with the vilest malefactors. The French Papists had invented this method of treating all who differed from them in religious matters. It could scarcely make Knox the more tolerant of French policy or of the French religion. He seldom refers to this terrible experience. He dismisses it with:


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