The Thundering Scot: John Knox The Preacher -- By: Richard Kyle

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 64:1 (Spring 2002)
Article: The Thundering Scot: John Knox The Preacher
Author: Richard Kyle

The Thundering Scot: John Knox The Preacher

Richard Kyle*

[*Richard Kyle is Professor of History and Religion at Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS.]


“I love to blow my Master’s Trumpet,” proclaimed John Knox. This little phrase is pregnant with meaning; it succinctly captures the very essence of his ministry. Historians have focused on Knox as the leader of a reformation, the instigator of a rebellion, and an opponent of female rule. While these impressions may be valid, they do not reflect Knox’s self-perception and the way his contemporaries viewed him. He saw himself as a simple preacher proclaiming God’s Word, a watchman warning the people to obey God. His contemporaries —both his supporters and opponents—also regarded him as a preacher.1

As a minister, Knox performed many tasks—preaching, administering the sacraments, counseling his parishioners, organizing churches, writing confessional statements, and more. But preaching was his priority. God called him to preach and Knox had no doubt about his vocation. In his aptly titled biography, Trumpeter of God, W. Stanford Reid has captured this theme. Believing himself to be called as were the Hebrew prophets, Knox’s chief purpose in life was to summon people to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Like John the Baptist, he saw himself as a “voice crying in the wilderness,” an instrument trumpeting the divine message. This “trumpeter theme thus became central to his thinking.”2 Or as Douglas MacMillan puts it: this “total commitment to preaching and to what preaching alone can achieve provides the real key to understanding Knox as a man, a Christian, and a reformer.”3

The First Blast of the Trumpet (1558) alerted people to the notion of Knox “blowing his master’s trumpet.” But he began to trumpet God’s message much earlier than this. In 1547 at St. Andrews, Knox received a dramatic call to proclaim God’s Word. And it did not take him long to obey this summons: the next week he was in the pulpit preaching his first sermon. Knox did not embark upon his preaching career until age 32. Except for the occasions when he had no access

to a pulpit, he preached for more than twenty-five years, until a few days before his death in 1572.4 Knox apparently had skills as a leader, a politician, church organizer, pastoral counselor, and perhaps even as a writer. But preaching was his greatest strength. He could skillfully i...

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