John Knox, Letter 4: On knowledge of the devil’s work as evidence that we are free from him, Knox’s pain and God’s grace in preaching


Dearly beloved sister in Jesus our Lord,

In the instant moment that your messenger delivered me your letter was I sitting at my book, and in contemplating Mathew’s Gospel in this place wherein the parable of good seed is sown, the enemy also sowing wicked cockle[1] among the same, I revolved some most godly exposition, and, amongst the rest, Chrysostom, who notes upon these words, “The enemy did this, that we may know that whosoever is beloved of God has the devil to his enemy; and therefore ought we most rejoice when we find the devil most rage against us, for that is an evident sign that we are not under his bondage but are free servants to Jesus Christ, to whom because the devil is enemy, he must also declare himself enemy to us.”

In reading of this his holy judgment, your battle and dolor was before my eyes, and as I prayed God that you might be assisted to the end, so wished I that you had been present with me; and even at the same instant called your servant, whereof I praised my God, and addressed me to write after the reading of your letter as I might. The place of Luke’s Gospel, touching them that shall seek and shall not find, ought not to discourage you, for it does not mean that any thirsting for salvation by Jesus Christ shall be deceived, but of such as seeks to enter in the kingdom of God by other ways than by Christ only,[2] as you do know there is a great number does. And where Christ says, “There is few that are chosen,” that is true in respect of the reprobate. For all England this day is called, but you know how mean is the number that obeys the voice of the caller. And therefore ought you greatly to rejoice, knowing yourself to be one of the small and contemned flock to whom it has pleased God our Father to give the kingdom.

The pain of my head and stomach troubles me greatly. Daily I find my body decay, but the providence of my God shall not be frustrated.

I am charged to be at Widderington upon Sunday, where I think I shall also remain Monday.

The Spirit of the Lord Jesus rest with you. Desire such faithful as with whom you communicate your mind, to pray that, at the pleasure of our good God, my dolor, both of body and spirit, may be relieved somewhat, for presently it is very bitter.

Never found I the Spirit, I praise my God, so abundant where God’s glory ought to be declared. And therefore I am sure there abides something that yet we see not.

From Newcastle, 1553.

Your brother in Christ,

[John Knox]


[From Works III:350-352. All syntax, diction, and relevant notes from publisher David Laing retained; word endings, spelling, and punctuation modernized sparingly by Sam Caldwell.]


[1] Cockle: corn cockle, a hairy weed found in grain fields.  

[2] “By Christ only” was famously George Wishart’s language. See History of the Reformation in Scotland…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: