Life Shall Devour Death

In August 1565, Knox preached a sermon in front of the Queen’s husband and implied so many criticisms of the royal couple, he was forbidden to preach for a time. The sermon, however, also contained comforting words for Protestants, whose newly won freedom was threatened by the Catholic monarchs. Some condensed excerpts from John Knox’s sermon:

I SEE HONOR AND GLORY to succeed this temporal shame; I see permanent joy to come after trouble, order to spring out of this terrible confusion. And finally I see that life shall devour death, so that death shall be destroyed, and so thy servants shall have life. This is the victory of faith, when [in] the midst of death, through the light of God’s Word, the afflicted see life.

Easy it is in time of prosperity to say and to think that God is our God, and that we are his people. But when he has given us over into the hands of our enemies, and turned, as it were, his back unto us, then still to reclaim him to be our God, and to have this assurance that we are his people, proceeds wholly from the Holy Spirit of God, as it is the greatest victory of faith, which overcomes the world—for increase whereof we ought continually to pray.

So soon as any great temptation apprehends us, then we begin to doubt if ever we believed God’s promises—if God will fulfill them to us if we abide in his favor, if he regards and looks upon the violence and injury that is done unto us—and a multitude of such cogitations, which before lurked quietly in our corrupted hearts, [now] burst violently forth when we are oppressed with any desperate calamity.

Against which this is the remedy: once to apprehend and still to retain God to be our God, and firmly to believe that we are his people whom he loves and will defend, not only in affliction but even in the midst of death itself.

The judgments of our God never shall be so vehement upon the face of the earth but that there shall be some secret habitation prepared in the sanctuary of God for some of his chosen, and that God prepared a time that they may glorify him again before the face of the world, which once despised them.

And this ought to be unto us no small comfort in these appearing dangers, namely, that we are surely persuaded that how vehement soever the tempest shall be, it yet shall pass over, and some of us shall be preserved to glorify the name of our God.

Let the faithful not be discouraged, although they be appointed as sheep to the slaughter-house. For he, for whose sake they suffer, shall not forget to avenge their cause. I am not ignorant that flesh and blood will think that kind of support too late; for we had rather be preserved still alive, than have our blood avenged after our death.

But seeing that death is common to all, and that this temporal life is nothing but misery, and that death fully joins us with our God and gives unto us the possession of our inheritance, why should we think it strange to leave this world and go to our Head and sovereign Captain, Jesus Christ?

But be of good courage, O little and despised flock of Christ Jesus! For he that seeth your grief hath power to revenge it. He will not suffer one tear of yours to fall, but it shall be kept and reserved in his bottle till the fullness thereof be poured down from heaven upon those that caused you to weep and mourn.

By John Knox

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #46 in 1995]

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