John Knox, a Scottish religious reformer, born at Gilford, Haddingtonshire, or at Giffordgate, a suburb of Haddington, in 1505, died in Edinburgh, Nov. 24, 1572. After receiving his preliminary education at the grammar school of Haddington, he was sent about 1524 to the university of St. Andrews, was ordained, and prior to 1530 became a teacher of philosophy there. The study of the fathers, especially of Jerome and Augustine, had shaken his religious opinions as early as 1535, but it was not till 1542 that he became an avowed and marked reformer. His reprehension of certain practices of the church caused him to retire from St. Andrews to the south of Scotland, where he was declared a heretic, degraded from his office, and threatened by assassins. In default of more definite occupation, he became tutor to the sons of two noble families, listened to the reformed teachers, and occasionally preached to the inhabitants of the surrounding country. After the death of his friend George Wishart he remained in retirement till, nearly a year after the murder of Cardinal Beaton, he took refuge with many other Protestants (1547) in the castle of St. Andrews, which the regent was vainly attempting to reduce.

There for the first time he administered publicly both elements of the eu-charist, and became known as a powerful preacher against the papacy. The regent, re-enforced by a French squadron, obliged the garrison to surrender. The terms of the capitulation were violated, and Knox with his comrades was transported to France, where he was imprisoned in the galleys for 19 months. He experienced extreme hardships, and on his release (1549) directed his course to England, where he was appointed to preach at Berwick and at Newcastle, and became one of the chaplains of Edward VI. For the boldness of his discourses he was several times called to account, but he was able to vindicate himself. A bishopric was offered to him, but he declined it from scruples as to the divine authority of the episcopal order. On the accession of Queen Mary he fled to Dieppe, and passed thence to Geneva. In November, 1554, he took charge of the chapel of the English emigrants in Frankfort, but resigned soon after because his congregation was in favor of retaining the liturgy. He returned to Geneva and thence to Scotland, where he labored for the spread of the reformation.

Dissatisfied with the slow progress of the movement in his native land, he returned to Geneva in 1556, where he became pastor of a small English congregation. The 30 months of his residence in Geneva, in the society of Calvin, Beza, and other learned men, were among the happiest of his life. While in Scotland he had been cited to appear before an assembly of the clergy to be held at Edinburgh, but his opponents avoided the discussion when they found him ready to meet it, supported by persons of influence. But after his return to Geneva the citation was renewed, and he was condemned to be burned as a heretic, and the sentence was executed on his effigy. Against this condemnation he published the "Appellation of John Knoxe." He also wrote " A Letter to Queen Mary, Regent of Scotland," and a tract entitled "The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women" (1558), a vehement attack on political government by women, at a time when Mary of Guise was regent of Scotland and Mary Tudor queen of England, and the nearest in succession to both thrones were females.

Invited by the Scottish Protestants to resume his labors in his native country, he landed at Leith in 1559, and rejoiced that he had come " even in the brunt of the battle." The queen regent, throwing off all disguise, had laid her plans for the forcible overthrow of the reformation. At a convention of the nobility and clergy in Edinburgh all the demands of the Protestants were refused. Several of the reforming preachers were summoned to appear at Stirling for trial, but by the dissimulation of the regent were prevented from attending and then outlawed for their failure. Knox hastened to meet them at Perth, where the Protestant preachers had assembled at the summons of the queen. Soon after his arrival he preached against the idolatry of the mass and the veneration of images. At the conclusion of the service a priest ventured to make preparations for celebrating mass, which roused the people to immediate action. The images in the churches were demolished, the pictures torn from the walls and trampled under foot, the holy recesses invaded, and the "rascal multitude," as Knox calls them, did not stop till they had sacked and laid in ruins the houses of the Dominican and Franciscan friars and the Carthusian monastery.

The queen regent advanced upon Perth with a considerable army, but, finding the Protestants well prepared for resistance, proposed terms of accommodation which were accepted. The Protestants, in order to consolidate their strength, formed a religious bond or covenant, and began to be distinguished as the congregation, and their leaders as the lords of the congregation. Iconoclasm was a prominent feature in the Scottish reformation. Events similar to those at Perth followed at Stirling, Lindores, Cupar, St. Andrews, and other places. Knox had preached in the cathedral of St. Andrews against the advice of his friends and the threats of the archbishop, and with such success that the magistrates united with the inhabitants in desolating the churches and monasteries, and in establishing the reformed worship. Meantime civil war raged throughout the kingdom between the regent, assisted by French troops, and the lords of the congregation, who implored the succor of Elizabeth. In political as well as ecclesiastical affairs Knox was a conspicuous adviser, and took up his residence in Edinburgh after an extensive circuit through the southern and eastern counties.

After a contest of 12 months, marked by many atrocities, the vigorous assistance rendered by Elizabeth, and the death of the queen regent while the English troops were investing Edinburgh, led to a truce and to the summons of the parliament to settle differences. Parliament assembled in August, 1560, and the reformed religion was established, and Roman Catholicism interdicted by law in Scotland. Knox retained the office of minister in the metropolis, and soon after the arrival of the young Queen Mary (Aug. 21, 1561) he was summoned to her presence. Six interviews are recorded between him and the queen, and the questions which she raised were discussed by him with a freedom and rigor which once drove her to tears. She caused his arrest on a charge of treason in 1563, but all the councillors except the immediate dependants of the court voted for his acquittal. The vehemence of his public discourses led him into frequent difficulties. In 1562 he disputed publicly for three days with Abbot Quentin Kennedy at Maybole; in 1565 he quoted certain texts which gave offence to the queen's consort (Darnley), and was for a short time prohibited from preaching; he fled from Edinburgh when Mary returned from Dunbar after the death of Rizzio; and he preached a sermon at the coronation of the infant James VI. at Stirling, July 29, 1567. Under the brief regency of Moray the work of Knox seemed to be completed, and he thought of retiring to Geneva to end his days in peace.

After the assassination of Moray, civil and religious confusion returned under the regency successively of Lennox and Mar. Weakened by a stroke of apoplexy in 1570, Knox yet reappeared in the pulpit, while Kirkaldy of Grange and others of his friends were forsaking the cause of the reformation, and while he differed from his brethren in the assembly about praying for the queen. So violent was the enmity excited by his animadversions, that, following the advice of his friends, he left Edinburgh for St. Andrews, May 5, 1571. He returned in the following year, and his last energies were put forth in denunciations of the perpetrators of the massacre of St. Bartholomew's. - The doctrines of Knox embraced a Calvinistic creed and a Presbyterian polity. The " Order of Geneva," a liturgy which he shared in preparing for the use of the church at Frankfort, and subsequently employed in his congregation at Geneva, was introduced into Scottish Protestant churches in 1565. He introduced the Puritan element into those churches. The office of bishop he declined, disapproving what he regarded as unscriptural ceremonials.

Chiefly through his influence the adoration of the sacrament was abolished in the Book of Common Prayer, which, by desire of the government, he aided in preparing under Edward VI. His character was marked by a stern realism, which could be beguiled by no social pretensions, no conventional dignities, no pompous traditions. From this sprang his scornful bitterness and his insensibility to the social graces and refinements which Mary exhibited personally, and sought to transplant from Paris to her native land. His preaching was distinguished for a headlong and vehement energy, which, as the English ambassador said, " put more life into him than 600 trumpets." Earnest and intense in every practical direction, his mind was not at all of a reflective or speculative cast, and as a thinker, save perhaps on political subjects, he takes no rank; his political views rather sprang from an instinctive sense than from the development of fundamental principles. The best known of his writings is the "Historie of the Reformation of Religion within the Realm of Scotland" (1584; mutilated ed. by David Buchanan, London and Edinburgh, 1644; complete ed., Edinburgh, 1732; after the most trustworthy manuscript, with other writings of Knox, by MacGavin, Glasgow, 1831). The collected edition of his works edited by David Laing is probably the most correct (6 vols., Edinburgh, 1846-'56). The principal biography of Knox is that by Thomas McCrie (1812; new ed., 1839). His biography in the 10th volume of Brandes's Leben und ausgewahlte Schriften der Vater und Begrunder der reformirten Kirche (Elberfeld, 1862) is a valuable study.