Edinburgh – Meeting John Knox

I woke up early on Christmas day morning, rushed down the stairs with my very excited children and we began to dish out the presents.

Amidst the chaos of torn wrapping paper I was handed a card by my most amazing wife.

I was confused, “thanks for the card, but where was my present to unwrap?”

I opened the card and inside were the booking details for a weekend away to one of my favorite cities, Edinburgh! Result!

As a child Scotland was our annual family holiday destination. My father was a keen golfer so we would spend our time in St.Andrews and would often make the short trip south to Edinburgh. I have some very fond memories of the city.

Each year I still watch the military tattoo at Edinburgh Castle on the TV and I must have been reminiscing, so my wife kindly booked the surprise trip for me. I was delighted!

What a Christmas present!

One of the best things about receiving a gift is the anticipation. I had been guessing (unsuccessfully) for weeks beforehand (and enjoying every moment), now in receipt of the gift I had another four weeks of excitement ahead of me whilst awaiting for our departure.

I began to plan our itinerary!

A romantic weekend was simply out of the question, no time. I love learning about the Napoleonic war and of course church history. Edinburgh is one of the best places in the world for both! My wife was pleased!

With the children safely at my sister-in-laws we flew into Edinburgh to begin our long weekend.


Hurricane Gertrude was hitting the city as we were landing, the pilot admitted afterwards that we had narrowly escaped being blown off the runway. It was a scary ride.

We dropped our bags off at our hotel and went straight to the castle where I was blown away by the Royal Dragoon Guards museum. I saw the golden eagle taken by Ensign Ewart at the Battle of Waterloo 201 years ago, amazing! (That evening we toasted his triumph with a nice single malt at his pub down the road).


We also visited the national galleries, Princess street, the Royal Mile and Sr. Mary’s close.

Saturday was church history day where we spent our time living in the steps of the great reformer John Knox.
edin4John Knox (1513-1572) was a leader of the European Protestant Reformation and was educated at the University of St Andrews.

His early “career” as a reformer of the Scottish church saw him under siege by the state at St.Andrews, where he was then taken prisoner by the French and forced to row the galley ships as a slave.

On one occasion his vessel returned to the Scottish coast to scout for English ships. Whilst in chains, a slave and suffering ill health on the open water, Knox saw the steeple of St.Andrews church and vowed to return to preach there again. By God’s Grace he did.

In 1549 Knox was released from slavery to exile in England where he was licensed to work in the Church of England. Knox rose through the ranks to serve King Edward VI of England as a royal chaplain and thus had a ‘reforming’ influence on the text of the new CoE Book of Common Prayer. Knox then resigned his position when Mary Tudor ascended to the throne and re-established Roman Catholicism. Knox bravely went head to head with the Monarch during her reign, owing to her support for Catholic practices.

No man can usurp Christ as the Head of the church, not even the Pope. Moreover” John Knox

All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without his own express commandment, is idolatry.” John Knox

In fear of his life Knox moved to Geneva and then to Frankfurt. In Geneva he met John Calvin, from whom he gained experience and knowledge of Reformed theology.

To reject God’s sovereign election was to deny God’s omnipotence.” John Knox

Knox return to Scotland and risked life and limb to lead the successful Protestant Reformation of Scotland that ousted Mary of Guise (ruler of Scotland and mother of Mary, Queen of Scots).

Knox was a great preacher, “he was able in one hour to put more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blasting in our ear.” It has been said that Luther was the reformations hammer, Calvin the pen and Knox the trumpet.

Knox wrote a new confession of faith and ecclesiastical order for the now reformed church of Scotland (the Kirk) and served as Minister at St.Giles (Edinburgh) until his death in 1572. At his burial the regent of Scotland said “Here lies one who never feared any flesh“, a fitting testament to the man.

The great reformers place of rest is now a car park (no.23), which is rather fitting for a man who worked tirelessly to rid the church of its unbiblical pomp, wealth and corruption. He would not have been pleased with a grand tomb.

Despite Knox’s notoriety and lifetime of interchange with the nobility he died almost penniless, he did not profit from his fame, giving all he had to God’s work. “None have I corrupted, none have I defrauded; merchandise have I not made.

Knox lived a life honoring the words of Hebrews 13:5-6

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

It was great to enjoy Edinburgh’s architecture and history once more, especially now as a Christian, I could truly appreciate its significance in our churches history and the freedoms we know share in worship.

On the Sunday morning we shared such freedom of worship with St. Columba’s church, who gave us a warm welcome. A church that only 14 years ago had just 12 members and now you God’s Grace welcomes 180. I pray we can experience the same blessing in our little Welsh Valley.

For those concerned for my wife, we did split the weekend long history lesson with some lovely meals out and romantic evening walks (urban hikers), where she got lots of love and attention. – the least I could do for what was an amazing weekend.



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