How John Knox Received his Call to Preach

pd1560127After Archbishop Beaton’s death…

…the castle of St. Andrews was at that time held by the Reformers as a place of safety, and as a place of refuge for all that might flee in times of danger. Knox, who was then teaching and who was fearful for the lives of his students, repaired there with his pupils who had principally came from the persecuted areas of Langniddrie and Ormiston. There he taught them in a chapel, the ruins of which is still called Knox’s kirk.

The acting preacher at the castle during this period was one John Rough, who was a few years younger than Knox. This Godly man, feeling himself overwhelmed by the responsibility which the leadership of the Protestant cause had thrust upon him, urged Knox to share in his work, and to take over the leadership of the struggling group; but Knox declined.

So John Rough commenced to preach a sermon on the right of a congregation to elect a minister, and the responsibility of the unfortunate person, if he refused the call. Needless to say it was a passionate sermon, and finally at the close, Rough turned and addressed Knox and said, “Brother, you shall not be offended, although I speak unto you that which I have in charge, even from all those who are here present, which is this: In the name of God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the name of all that presently call you through my mouth, I charge you that you refuse not this holy vocation; but, as you are tender to the glory of God, the increase of Christ’s kingdom, the edification of your brethren, and the comfort of me, whom you understand well enough to be oppressed by the multitude of labours, that you take the public office and charge of preaching, even as you look to avoid God’s heavy displeasure, and desire that He shall multiply His graces unto you.”

Then, addressing the congregation (one of whom was Sir David Lindsay, of the Mount), said “Was not this your charge unto me? and do ye not approve this vocation?” They all answered, “It was, and we approve it.” At these words, Knox suddenly burst into tears, and left the assembly.

It is recorded that “his countenance and behaviour from that day till the day he was compelled to present himself in the public place of preaching, did he sufficiently declare the grief and trouble of his heart, for no man saw any sign of mirth from him; neither had he pleasure to accompany any men for many days together.” In this way the divine call came to the great Scotch Reformer, and the voice of God in that call he obeyed, and with what results his noble life showed.

Taken and adapted from “The Religious Anecdotes of Scotland.”