John Knox, Letter 3: On Christ’s triumph over Satan, contrary spirits, conflict within, but God cannot repent of His gifts


Grace and peace from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ rest and be multiplied with you. Amen.

Beloved sister,

After most hardy commendation, the remembrance of your continual battle is dolorous to me. Yet fear I nothing less than your victory by Him who ever has vanquished, when Satan appeared to have possessed all. The art of your adversary, dear sister, is subtle, in that he would cause you abhor that, and hate it, wherein stands only salvation and life. Jesus, by interpretation, is a Savior, by reason that He saves His people from their sins. And Christ is called “Anointed” (as Isaiah does witness) – the Spirit of God has anointed our Savior insofar as He is man. There is given to Him all power in heaven and earth, that from Him, as from a fountain most abounding and ever flowing well, we may receive all that we have lost by the transgression of a man.

Now, sister, our adversary, knowing that the rest and tranquility of our conscience stands in this, that we do embrace Jesus to be the only Savior of the world, and that we learn to apply the sweetness of His name, which precels[1] the odors of all fragrant smelling spices, to the corruption of our wounds – he labors to make that name odious, and this he does as enemy, not so much to you, as to Jesus Christ, who by His own power has broken down his head, and also shall triumph above him in His members.

You are sick, dear sister, and therefore no wonder albeit you (not of yourself, but by his continual assaults) abhor the succor of most wholesome food. I said to you that I was sure that always you remained not in that bitterness of heart, for otherwise perceived I, both by your words and conditions. If always you hated Jesus the Son of God, and abhorred the redemption that is by His blood, you should never so seek comfort nor consolation at God, neither by my prayers nor familiarity of my company; but me should you hate, as does the rest of the wicked world. For such as be reprobate can never love God, nor the members of Christ’s body, but must needs persecute them, and chiefly such as in whom the Spirit of God works abundantly. Witness King Saul, who to his death persecuted David, albeit David at all times was beneficial to him. The contrary spirit, reigning in the two, permitted never concord to stand.

Further, sister, such as taste the cup of desperation, without any motion or thirst of grace, never taste any sweetness of God’s promises. The contrary whereof I have known into[2] you, whereto I am sure your own conscience must needs bear witness. And so, sister, you are sick, but shall not die. Your faith is weak and sore troubled, but you are not unfaithful, nor yet shall not your infirmity be imputed to you.

Remember, dear sister, what ignorance, what fear, and what appearance of incredulity remained in Christ’s disciples after they had heard His most plain doctrine, and after they had seen the power of His works a longer time than you have yet continued in Christ. That is not so diligently and so oft rehearsed by the Evangelists without a most special cause – but to be a comfort to us, that albeit both fear and doubts remain in our conscience, even of long time, yet is there no danger to such as once has embraced God in His promises. For His majesty is such that He cannot repent Him of His gifts.

To embrace Christ, to refuse idolatry, to confess the truth, to love the members of Christ’s body, are the gifts of God. Therefore He cannot repent that He has made you partaker thereof. But lest you should wax negligent, and desire to remain in this wicked life, His godly wisdom permits you to taste a little of that bitter cup that His own Son, our Lord Jesus, did taste in greatest abundance. And it is profitable that so you do, to the mortification of the wicked carcass.

After the writing of these preceding, your brother and mine, Harry Wyckliff, did advertise me by writing that your adversary took occasion to trouble you, because that I did start back from you, rehearsing your infirmities. I remember myself so to have done, and that is my common consuetude,[3] when anything pierces or touches my heart.

Call to your mind what I did standing at the cupboard in Anwik.[4] In very deed I thought that no creature had been tempted as I was. And when that I heard proceed from your mouth the very same words that he troubles me with, I did wonder, and from my heart lament your sore trouble, knowing in myself the dolor thereof. And no other thing, dear sister, meant I. And therefore think not that I either flatter you, or yet that I conceal anything from you. No, for if I had been so minded, I had not been so plain in other cases.

My other great labors permit me not to write as I would. I will pray for your continuance with Christ.

At Newcastle, in great haste, the 26th of February 1553.

Your brother,

John Knox

[From Works III:348-350. All syntax, diction, and relevant notes from publisher David Laing retained; word endings, spelling, and punctuation modernized sparingly by Sam Caldwell.]


[1] Precels: excels. Original: precelleth.

[2] Into: in.

[3] Consuetude: custom.

[4]

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