John Knox’s “Latter Will and Legacy”

Or: “Last Will and Testament,” modernized by Sam Caldwell from The Works of John Knox, VI:liv–lvi


Lord Jesus, I commend my troubled spirit into Your protection and defense! And Your troubled kirk [church] to Your mercy! Because I have had to do with diverse personages of the ministry whereunto God of His mercy erected me, within this realm, my duty craves that I shall leave to them now a testimony of my mind.

And first to the papists, and to the unthankful world, I say that although my life has been to them odious, and that oftentimes they have sought my destruction and the destruction of the kirk [church] which God, of His mercy, has planted within this realm, and has always preserved and kept the same from their cruel enterprise, yet to them I am compelled to say that unless they speedily repent, my departing of this life shall be to them the greatest calamity that ever yet has apprehended them. Some small appearance they may yet have in my life, if they have grace to see. A dead man have I been almost these two years last past, and yet I would that they should ripely consider in what better state they and their matters stand in than it has done before, and they have heard of long time before threatened. But because they will not admit me for an admonisher, I give them over to the judgment of Him who knows the hearts of all, and will disclose the secrets thereof in due time. And this for the papists.

To the faithful God, before His Son Jesus Christ, and before His holy angels, I protest that God by my mouth, be I never so abject, has shown to you His truth in all simplicity. None have I corrupted. None have I defrauded. Merchandise have I not made. To God’s glory I write of the glorious evangel of Jesus Christ, but according to the measure of the grace granted to me, I have divided the sermon of truth in just parts, beating down the pride of the proud in all that did declare their rebellion against God, according as God in His law gives to me yet testimony, and raising up the consciences troubled with the knowledge of their own sins, by the declaring of Jesus Christ, the strength of His death, and the mighty operation of His resurrection, in the hearts of the faithful. Of this, I say, I have a testimony this day in my conscience before God, how that ever [howsoever] the world rage.

Be constant, therefore, in the doctrine that once publicly you have professed. Let not slanderous days draw you away from Jesus Christ. Neither let the prosperity of the wicked move you to follow it or them. For howsoever it be that God appears to neglect His own, for a season, yet He remains a just Judge who neither can nor will justify the wicked.

I am not ignorant that any would that I should enter into particular determination of their present troubles, to whom I plainly and simply answer that as I never exceeded the bounds of God’s Scriptures, so will I not do in this part, by God’s grace. But hereof I am assured by Him who neither can deceive or be deceived, that the Castle of Edinburgh, in the which all the murder, all the trouble, and the whole destruction of this pure commonwealth was invented, and as our own eyes may witness, by them and by their maintainers, was put in execution, shall come to destruction, maintain it who so list – the destruction, I say, of body and soul, except they repent! I look not to the momentary prosperity of the wicked, yes, not although [even if] they should remain conquerors to the coming of our Lord Jesus! But I look to this sentence, that whosoever sheds innocent blood defiles the land, and provokes God’s wrath against himself and the land, until his blood be shed again, by order of law, to satisfy God’s anger [see Gen. 9:6]. This is not the first time that you have heard this sentence. Although that many at all times stirred at such severity, I yet affirm the same, being ready to enter to give account before His Majesty of the stewardship He committed to me.

I know in my death the rumors shall be strange, but be not troubled above measure, beloved in the Lord Jesus! But yet again I say, remain constant in the truth, and He who of His mercy sent me, conducted me, and prospered the work in my hand against Satan, will provide for you abundantly, when that either my blood shall water the doctrine taught by me, or He of His mercy otherwise provide to put an end to this my battle.

[The remainder of this will concerns money and possessions left to Knox’s second wife and sons.]

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