Letter to the Faithful in England

By | December 1, 2012

From “Select Practical Writings of John Knox”

‎”The admonition was this, That the last trumpet was in blowing within the realm of England, and therefore ought every man to prepare him for battle; for if the trumpet should cease and be put to silence, then should it never blow again with like force in England, till the coming of the Lord Jesus.

O, dear brethren, how sore these threatenings pierce my heart this day, God only knoweth; and in what anguish of heart I write the same, God shall declare, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed! I wish myself to be accursed of God, as touching all earthly pleasures or comfort, for one year of that time which, alas! neither you nor I did righteously esteem, when all abounded with us. I sob and groan, I call and I pray, that in that point I may be deceived. But I am commanded to stand content, for it is God himself that fulfilleth the words of his true messengers: his justice and order cannot be perverted. The sun keepeth his ordinary course, and leapeth not back from the west to the south; but when it goeth down, we lack the light of it, till it rise the next day towards the east again. And so it is with the light of the Gospel, which hath his day appointed by God, as witnesseth Christ, saying, “While ye have the light, believe in the light, that darkness apprehend you not.” (John, xii.) And Paul, “The night is past, and the day is come,” (meaning of the Gospel) (Rom., xiii.) —and also, “This day if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Heb., iii.)

And albeit that this day, be all time from Christ’s incarnation till his last coming again, yet evident it is, that all nations have not had at one time the light of God’s word; but some were in darkness, when others had light. But by the contrary, most evident it is, that where the light of the Gospel for man’s unthankfulness hath been taken away, there is it not to this day restored again. Witness whole Israel, and all the congregations of the Gentiles, where Christ was first preached by the apostles. What is in Asia? ignorance of God. What in Africa? abnegation of Christ. What in those most notable churches of the Greeks, where Christ was planted by Paul, and long after watered by others? Mahomet and his false sect. Yea, what is in Rome? —the greatest idol of all others, that adversary to Christ, that Man of Sin, extolled above all that is called God. Hath God punished these nations before us, not only the first offenders, but even their posterity unto this day, and shall he spare us, if we be like unthankful as they were; yea, if we be worse than they were? For of them, no small number suffered persecution, banishment, slander, poverty, and finally, death, for the professing of Christ, who having only this knowledge, that idols were odious before God, could neither for loss of temporal goods, for honours offered if they would obey, nor yet for most cruel torments suffered in resisting, once be persuaded to bow before idols.

And, alas! shall we, after so many graces that God hath offered unto us, for pleasure, or for vain threatening of those whom your hearts know, and your mouths have confessed, to be odious idolaters, run back to idolatry, to the perdition of ourselves and of our posterity to come? Shall God’s holy prophets work no greater obedience in you? Shall nature no otherwise mollify your hearts? Shall not fatherly pity overcome that cruelty? Oh, behold your children, and consider the end of their creation! Great cruelty it were to save yourselves, and to damn them; but oh! more than cruelty, and madness that cannot be expressed, if for the pleasure of a moment, you deprive yourselves and your posterity of that eternal joy, that is ordained for those that continue in confession of Christ’s name and truth to the end; which assuredly you do, if without resistance altogether, ye return to idolatry again. Alas! then the trumpet hath lost its sound; the sun is gone down, and the light vanished away. But if that God shall strengthen you, boldly to withstand all such impiety, then is there but a dark misty cloud overspreading the sun for a moment, which shortly shall vanish, so that the beams of the sun shall afterward be seven-fold more bright and amiable than they were before; your patience and constancy shall be the louder trumpet to your posterity, than were all the voices of the prophets that cried to you. And therefore, for the tender mercies of God, arm yourselves to stand with Christ: fly from that abominable idol, the maintainers of which shall not escape the vengeance of God. Let is be known to your posterity, that ye were Christians, and not idolaters; and so is not the trumpet ceased, so long as any boldly resist idolatry.

The precepts are sharp and hard to be observed, will some object; and yet again I affirm, that compared with the plagues which assuredly shall fall upon the contemners, they shall be found easy and light. For avoiding of idolatry, it may chance that ye be contemned in the world, and compelled to leave the realm. But obeyers of idolatry, as before God they are abominable, so shall they be compelled body and soul to burn in hell. For avoiding of idolatry, your worldly substance shall be lost and spoiled; but for obeying of idolatry, heavenly riches shall be lost. By avoiding idolatry, you may fall into the hands of earthly tyrants; but obeyers, consenters, and maintainers of idolatry, shall not escape the hands of the living God. For avoiding idolatry, your children shall be deprived of father, friends, riches, and earthly rest; but by obedience to idolatry, they shall be left without God, without the knowledge of his word, and without hope of his kingdom. Consider, dear brethren, that how much more dolorous it is to be tormented in hell, than to suffer trouble on earth; to be deprived of heavenly joy, than to be robbed of transitory riches; to fall into the hands of the living God, than to abide man’s vain and uncertain displeasure —so much more fearful and dangerous it is, to obey idolatry, or dissembling, to consent to that abomination, than avoiding the same, to suffer what inconveniences may follow thereupon by man’s tyranny. Oh, be not like Esau, that sold and lost his birth-right for a mess of pottage!”
-John Knox, “Letter to the Faithful in England”