September 13: Knox Arrives in Geneva

The Most Perfect School of Christ Since the Days of the Apostles

There is no doubt that Geneva Switzerland in the time of John Calvin was the perfect asylum for persecuted Presbyterians from all over the world. They would arrive there whenever times in their own country were harsh and forbidding in the practice of the Reformed faith and life. In the mid-sixteenth century, that state was certainly true of Scotland and England with the crowning of Mary Tudor to the throne.  Immediately, approximately 300 believers were sent to the fiery stake. Countless fled to other countries, including John Knox and his family. And Geneva was his destination, arriving there on this day, September 13, 1556, with his wife Marjorie. On the following month, the church of English exiles called John Knox to be a co-pastor of that church.

During this period Knox enjoyed, as M’Crie writes, one of the quietest times in his life and ministry. He would preach three sermons a week to his church family of 100 English exiles. often about two hours plus in length. He found time to work on the Reformed footnotes of the famous Geneva Bible, which were then being introduced to the Reformed world by the son-in-law of John Calvin. Knox wrote a lengthy work on predestination, as well as a political one on the female but wicked rulers of his home country.

Family happiness was expanded to include two sons from his wife, named Nathaniel and Eleazar. Both died without issue however in later years.

But his time there was blessed by simply being present in the town and enjoying the fellowship of countless Reformed brethren, including John Calvin. Writing to a friend once, he said “In my heart, I could have wished,  yea, and cannot cease to wish, that it might please God to guide and conduct yourself to this place, where, I neither fear nor shame to say, is the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles. In other places I confess Christ to be truly preached; but manners and religions to be so sincerely reformed, I have not yet seen in any other place besides.”  What a statement!

And while all the above was true, that is, “the enjoyment of personal accommodations, the pleasures of literary society, and the endearments of domestic happiness,” as Thomas M’Crie puts it in his book, The Life of John Knox, still Knox couldn’t forget his  own dear congregation languishing in Scotland.  And at the earliest opportunity, and upon receiving advice from the brethren there in Geneva, including that of John Calvin, Knox responded to the clarion call to return to the Scottish fray in May 1559.  It was but a year when the First Reformation, as it has been called, came to Scotland.

Words to Live By:
Every pastor needs a change of pace from the demands of an active ministry. We call it a vacation, yet often it is filled with work.  Sometimes intrusions can come by way of unthinking church members who somehow find out the when and where of the vacationing pastor’s family. It would seem the duties of ministry are never laid down. Yet the importance of a family vacation, a time when the pastor can re-connect with family members, is so very important. So whatever your status, whether a church officer or simply a member of the church, do what you can to press upon your pastor the importance of a family vacation. Don’t let your pastor be a workaholic! Better yet, consider giving him a Sabbatical when he can thoroughly recharge his spiritual batteries from the pressing work of the ministry. He will come back refreshed beyond words to take up again the challenges of ministering to the souls of men, women, and children.



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