John Knox and the Reformation

Book Details

Discerning Reader Editorial Review

Reviewed 06/04/2011 by John Bird.

Recommended. These two eminent Reformed writers combined in one volume is worth the read, whatever the topic.

In an address given in Edinburgh in 1960, Martyn Lloyd-Jones suggested the following: "perhaps the greatest of all the lessons of the Protestant Reformation is that the way of recovery is always to go back, back to the primitive pattern, to the origin, to the norm and standard which are to be found alone in the New Testament." That the speaker was guided by faithfulness to "the norm and standard" found in the New Testament is evident in his writings, which is why I love reading him and am delighted that his work is still published many years after his death.

Lloyd-Jones' biographer, Iain H. Murray, is another advocate of looking back, and is another whose writings I can't resist.  With the Banner of Truth's recent release of John Knox and the Reformation, I had the privilege to read both men in one volume.

This short but valuable title consists of three chapters. "Remembering the Reformation" and "John Knox: the Founder of Puritanism" were addresses that Lloyd-Jones gave in 1960 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in Scotland. The third chapter is Iain Murray's "John Knox and 'The Battle'," which is a biographical sketch of Knox concentrating on his efforts to reform the church in Scotland.

John Knox and the Reformation is published for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Knox (2014), but not out of a "purely antiquarian or historical motive." As Lloyd-Jones says, "the times in which we are living are too urgent and too desperate for us to indulge a mere antiquarian spirit." Rather, "we look at these men in order that we may learn from them, and imitate and emulate their example." He underscores his stated purpose using Hebrews 13:7: "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith."

Though Knox was, and still is, an object of controversy, there's no denying that God used him greatly. Murray writes: "The only true explanation of Knox's preaching is in words he applied to others of his fellow countrymen, 'God gave his Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.' " Of a sermon that Knox preached to discouraged Protestant forces after beaten by the French, one man said that "The voice of one man is able in one hour to put more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears."

But again, the aim of this book isn't to teach us about Knox, but to help us learn from Knox. Lloyd-Jones and Murray each spell out the lessons that we can glean and apply to our day, and we would be wise to take heed.

When I asked what I should read for spiritual growth, a pastor and mentor told me that other than the Bible, he benefitted most from the biographies of great Christians. I've found this to be true for myself, and especially true of Iain Murray's works. John Knox and the Reformation is no exception.