The Second Love Life of John Knox

17In the Introduction of the “Ladies of the Covenant.” it was described by Mr. Robert Millar, minister of Paisley, to the historian of “The Sufferings of the Church of Scotland,” Mr. Wodrow, on November 15, 1722. It follows:

“John Knox, before the light of the Reformation broke out, traveled among several honest families in the West of Scotland, who were converts to the Protestant religion. Particularly he visited often Steward, Lord Ochiltree’s family, preaching the gospel privately to those who were willing to receive it. The Lady and some of the family were converts.  And, it is here is where we pick up the story of John Knox’s second love life…

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“Her ladyship had a chamber, table, stool, and a candlestick for the prophet…

…and one night about supper, says to him, ‘Mr Knox, I think that you are at a loss by want of a wife,’ to which he said, ‘Madam, I think nobody will take such a wanderer as I;’ to which she replied, ‘Sire, if that be your objection, I’ll make inquiry to find an answer, ‘gainst our next meeting.’

“The Lady accordingly addressed herself to her eldest daughter, telling her she might be very happy if she could marry Mr. Knox, who would be a great Reformer, and a credit to the church; but she despised the proposal, hoping that her ladyship wished her better than to marry a poor wanderer.

“The Lady addressed herself to her second daughter, who answered as the eldest.

“Then the Lady spoke to her third daughter, Elizabeth, about nineteen years of age, who very frankly said, ‘Madam, I’ll be very willing to marry him, but I fear that he’ll not take me,’ to which the Lady replied, ‘If that be all your objection, I’ll soon get an answer.’

“Next night, at supper, the Lady said to Mr. Knox, ‘Sir, I have been considering upon a wife for you, and find one very willing.’ To which Knox said, ‘Who is it Madam?’

She answered, ‘My younger daughter sitting by you at the table.’

“Addressing himself to the young lady, he said ‘My bird, are you willing to marry me?’ She answered, “Yes, Sir, only I fear you’ll not be willing  to take me.’ He said, ‘My bird, if you be willing to take me, you must take your venture of God’s providence, as I do. I go through the country sometimes on my foot, with a wallet on my arm, a shirt, a clean band, and a Bible in it; you may put some things in it for yourself, and if I bid  you take the wallet, you must do it, and go where I go, and lodge where I lodge.’ ‘Sir,’ says she, ‘I’ll do all this.’  ‘Will you be as good as your word?’ ‘Yes, I will.’

Upon which, the marriage talk was concluded, and she lived happily with him, and had three daughters from him. She afterward lived with him when he was minister at Edinburgh.”

Now this marriage does not resonate with twenty-first century standards of American Christians, nor did their age difference resonate with seventeenth century Scottish Christians. But she lived as his wife, with a family of five, three daughters and two adopted sons, for the next eight years. All three daughters married and brought forth children of their own to continue the line of John Knox. After his death, the General Assembly granted  her his pension for a year. She married again and went to be with the Lord in 1612.

Words to Live By:  God often works by mysterious providence to accomplish His sovereign purposes, including that of the bond of marriage.

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 Taken from “Posted at This Day in Presbyterian History – March 26: The Love Life of John Knox (1564)