“Give me Scotland, or I die!”
It’s a bold prayer for a man whose ministry is founded on the sovereignty of God, and it might seem contradictory to some. How can a theologian count on God to do as he alone wills, yet plead for the Sovereign to be so moved for the salvation of souls and the upheaval of his nation. But that’s how John Knox believed firmly—and how he prayed fervently.
What Martin Luther was to Germany, and Knox was to Scotland. And what John Calvin was to reformed theology overall, Knox was to Presbyterian doctrine in particular. Brave, he kept his head when others were losing theirs to Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots.
Born in 1514, three years before Luther nailed his 95 accusations to the church house door in Wittenberg, Knox grew up in the foment of political revolution and spiritual reformation. He was described as violent in the streets and fiery in the pulpit. Knox was forced to flee Scotland, at one point enslaved 19 months in galley ships. Later, he met Calvin in France. He was so impressed with Calvin’s school in Geneva, according to a Christian History account, that he called it “the most perfect school of Christ that was ever on the earth since the days of the apostles.”
Returning to Scotland, Knox led the Scottish Reformation, a movement that birthed the Presbyterian Church and ultimately ended the reign of the Catholic queen. “He lived in the 16th century, and much of modern Scotland is really the fruit of his labors,” said Jeff Tippner, a minister in St. Fergus and organizer of a post-Brexit evangelistic campaign with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
When Graham’s grandson Will preached at that series of crusade meetings in Scotland last year, he invoked the prayer of Knox, as his famous grandfather had in 1955. The elder Graham explained the sometime dichotomy of reformation theology and crusade evangelism this way: “I believe in a sovereign God who still performs miracles.”
– Eric Reed