Preface to The History of the Reformation In Scotland
John Knox (c. 1566)
To the gentill readar, grace and peace from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with the perpetuall encrease of the Holy Spreit.
1 IT is not unknowen, Christeane Reader, that the same clud of ignorance, that long hath darkened many realmes under this accurssed kingdome of that Romane Antichrist, hath also owercovered this poore Realme; that idolatrie hath bein manteined, the bloode of innocentis hath bene sched, and Christ Jesus his eternall treuth hath bene abhorred, detested, and blasphemed. But that same God that caused light to schyne out of darknes, in the multitud of his mercyes, hath of long tyme opened the eis of some evin within this Realme, to see the vanitie of that which then was universally embrased for trew religioun; and hes gevin unto them strenth to oppone2 thame selfis unto the same: and now, into these our last and moist3 corrupt dayis, hath maid his treuth so to triumphe amonges us, that, in despyte of Sathan, hipochrisye is disclosed, and the trew wyrshipping of God is manifested to all the inhabitantis of this realme who eis Sathan blyndis not, eyther by thair fylthy lustes, or ellis by ambitioun, and insatiable covetousness, which mack them repung to4 the power of God working by his worde.
And becaus we ar not ignorant what diverse bruittis5 war dispersed of us, the professoures of Jesus Christ within this realme, in the begynnyng of our interprise, ordour was tackin, that all our proceidingis should be committed to register; as that thei war, by such as then paynfullie travailled boith by toung and pen; and so was collected a just volume, (as after will appeir,) conteanyng thingis done frome the fyftie-awght6 year of God, till the arrivall of the Quenis Majestie7 furth of France, with the which the Collectour and Writtar for that tyme was content, and never mynded8 further to have travailled in that kynd of writting. But, after invocatioun of the name of God, and after consultatioun with some faythfull, what was thought by thame expedient to advance Goddis glorie, and to edifie this present generatioun, and the posteritie to come, it was concluded, that faythfull rehersall should be maid of such personages as God had maid instrumentis of his glorie, by opponyng of thame selfis to manifest abuses, superstitioun, and idolatrie; and albeit thare be no great nomber, yet ar thei mo then the Collectour wold have looked for at the begynnyng, and thairfoir is the volume somewhat enlarged abuif his expectatioun: and yit, in the begynnyng, mon9 we crave of all the gentill Readaris, not to look10 of us such ane History as shall expresse all thingis that have occurred within this Realme, during the tyme of this terrible conflict that hes bene betuix the sanctes11 of God and these bloody wolves who clame to thame selves the titill of clargie, and to have authoritie ower the saules of men; for, with the Pollicey,12 mynd we to meddill no further then it hath Religioun mixed with it. and thairfoir albeit that many thingis which wer don be omitted, yit, yf we invent no leys,13 we think our selves blamless in that behalf. of one other (thing) we mon14 foirwarne the discreat Readaris, which is, that thei be not offended that the sempill treuth be spokin without partialitie; for seing that of men we neyther hunt for reward, nor yitt for vane glorie, we litill pass by the approbatioun of such as seldome judge weill of God and of his workis. Lett not thairfoar the Readir wonder, albeit that our style vary and speik diverslie of men, according as thei have declared thamselves sometymes ennemymes and sometymes freindis, sometymes fervent, sometymes cold, sometymes constant, and sometymes changeable in the cause of God and of his holy religioun: for, in this our simplicitie, we suppoise that the Godlie shall espy our purpose, which is, that God may be praised for his mercy schawin,15 this present age may be admonished to be thankfull for Goddis benefittis offerred, and the posteritie to cum may be instructed how wonderouslie hath the light of Christ Jesus prevailled against darkness in this last and most corrupted age.
Note 1. John Knox (15051572), the leader of the Scottish Reformation and its historian, was educated at Glasgow University; was pastor to English congregations at Frankfort-on-Main and at Geneva, where he met Calvin; returned to Scotland in 1559; and from that time till his death was active in the establishment of the Presbyterian organization, through which his powerful personality has continued to influence the Scottish national character to the present day. His preface, which is printed here in the original Scottish spelling, gives some indication of the sternness, not to say virulence, of his temper towards the Roman Church. [back]