Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Knox and Queen Mary
By John Knox (c. 15051572)
From the History of the Reformation of Religion in Scotland
WHETHER it was by counsel of others, or the queens own desire, we know not; but the queen spake with John Knox, and had long reasoning with him, none being present, except the Lord Jamestwo gentlewomen stood in the other end of the house. The sum of their reasoning was this. The queen accused him, that he had raised a part of her subjects against her mother, and against herself; that he had written a book against her just authorityshe meant the Treatise against the Regimen of Womenwhich she had, and should cause the most learned in Europe to write against it; that he was the cause of great sedition, and great slaughter in England; and that it was said to her, that all that he did was by necromancy, etc.
To the which the said John answered, Madam, it may please your Majesty, patiently to hear my simple answers. And, first, said he, if to teach the truth of God in sincerity, if to rebuke idolatry, and to will a people to worship God according to his word, be to raise subjects against their princes, then cannot I be excused; for it has pleased God of His mercy to make me one, among many, to disclose unto this realm the vanity of the papistical religion, and the deceit, pride, and tyranny of that Roman antichrist. But, madam, if the true knowledge of God, and His right worshipping be the chief causes, that most move men from their heart to obey their just princesas it is most certain that they arewherein can I be reprehended? I think, and am surely persuaded, that your grace have had, and presently have as unfeigned obedience, of such as profess Christ Jesus within this realm, as ever your father, or other progenitors had of those that were called Bishops. And touching that book, which seemeth so highly to offend your majesty, it is most certain that I wrote it, and am content that all the learned of the world judge of it. I hear that an Englishman hath written against it, but I have not read him; if he hath sufficiently improved my reasons, and established his contrary propositions, with as evident testimonies, as I have done mine, I shall not be obstinate, but shall confess my error and ignorance; but to this hour I have thought, and yet think myself alone to be more able to sustain the things affirmed in that my work, than any ten in Europe shall be able to confute it.
You think then, quoth she, that I have no just authority? Please your Majesty, said he, that learned men in all ages have had their judgments free, and most commonly disagreeing from the common judgment of the world; such also have they published, both with pen and tongue, and yet notwithstanding they themselves have lived in the common society with others, and have borne patiently with the errors and imperfections which they could not amend. Plato, the philosopher, wrote his books of the Commonwealth, in the which he damneth many things that then were maintained in the world, and required many things to have been reformed; and yet notwithstanding he lived even under such policies, as then were universally received, without farther troubling of any estate. Even so, madam, am I content to do, in uprightness of heart, and with a testimony of a good conscience. I have communicated my judgment to the world; if the realm finds no inconvenience from the regimen of a woman, that which they approve shall I not farther disallow than within my own breast, but shall be as well content to live under your grace, as Paul was to live under Nero. And my hope is, that so long as that ye defile not your hands with the blood of the saints of God, that neither I nor that book shall either hurt you or your authority; for in very deed, madam, that book was written most especially against that wicked Jezebel of England.
But, said she, ye speak of women in general. Most true it is, madam, said the other; and yet it appeareth to me, that wisdom should persuade your grace, never to raise trouble for that, which to this day hath not troubled your majesty, neither in person nor in authority; for of late years many things, which before were holden stable, have been called in doubt; yea, they have been plainly impugned. But yet, madam, said he, I am assured, that neither protestant nor papist shall be able to prove, that any such question was at any time moved in public or in secret. Now, madam, said he, if I had intended to have troubled your estate, because ye are a woman, I might have chosen a time more convenient for that purpose, than I can do now, when your own presence is within the realm.
But now, madam, shortly to answer to the other two accusations. I heartily praise my God through Jesus Christ, that Satan the enemy of mankind, and the wicked of the world, have no other crimes to lay to my charge, than such as the very world itself knoweth to be most false and vain. For in England I was resident only the space of five years. The places were Berwick, where I abode two years, so long in the New-Castle, and a year in London. Now, madam, if in any of these places, during the time that I was there, any man shall be able to prove, that there was either battle, sedition, or mutiny, I shall confess that I myself was the malefactor, and the shedder of the blood. I shame not, madam, farther to affirm, that God so blessed my weak labours, that in Berwickwhere commonly before there used to be slaughter, by reason of quarrels that used to arise among soldiersthere was as great quietness, all the time that I remained there, as there is this day in Edinburgh.
And where they slander me of magic, necromancy, or of any other art forbidden of God, I have witnessesbesides my own conscienceall congregations that ever heard me, what I spake both against such arts, and against those that use such impiety. But seeing the wicked of the world said, That my master the Lord Jesus, was possessed with Beelzebub, I must patiently bear, albeit that I, wretched sinner, be unjustly accused of those, that never delighted in the verity.
Madam, said he, as right religion took neither original strength nor authority from worldly princes, but from the Eternal God alone, so are not subjects bound to frame their religion according to the appetites of their princes; for oft it is, that princes are the most ignorant of all others in Gods true religion, as we may read as well in the histories before the death of Christ Jesus as after. If all the seed of Abraham should have been of the religion of Pharaoh, to whom they were long subjects, I pray you, madam, what religion should there have been in the world? Or if all men, in the days of the apostles, should have been of the religion of the Roman emperors, what religion should there have been upon the face of the earth? Daniel and his fellows were subjects to Nebuchadnezzar, and unto Darius, and yet, madam, they would not be of their religion, neither of the one or of the other; for the three children said: We make it known unto thee, O king, that we will not worship thy gods. And Daniel did pray publicly unto his God, against the express commandment of the king. And so, madam, ye may perceive, that subjects are not bound to the religion of their princes, albeit they are commanded to give them obedience.