Select Practical Writings of John Knox

I have enjoyed perusing Banner of Truth’s republished edition of The Select Practical Writings of John Knox.  When this volume was originally published in 1844 it was part of an effort to make available to “every family” the “good old theological literature of Scotland,” particularly “those venerable treatises of practical theology and personal religion” which have “kept alive true religion in many a district where, in the pulpit, the trumpet gave forth an uncertain sound, or a sound all too certain on the side of error” (vii-ix). The original preface notes that Knox and others had come to be known only for their controversial works and that we would do well to see also the inner workings of their devotional lives in these practical writings.

This volume also includes an introduction from the 19th century edition, written by Thomas Thomson. His statements about John Knox’s writing style bear quoting in full.

Much indeed has been said of Knox’s ruggedness and want of taste, and heavy have been the allegations against him as the enemy of all refinement. But let the choice of his words and structure of his sentences be considered – his epithets so pregnant with meaning, and the march of his language, so stately and so full of music – and it will be acknowledge, that as a writer of the old rich English tongue, he had few equals, and certainly no superior, during his own day. Nay, more than this, he not only exhibits the highest literary excellencies of his English contemporaries, but with his characteristic good feeling and sound sense, he avoids that classical and scholastic pedantry by which their writings were so generally infected. From this circumstance, as well as from the vigor of his intellect, and straight-forwardness of his habits of thought, Know is a writer for all time, and will be intelligible in every age – and especially to those who prize the language of the Bible. (xxxi)

We still remain in regular need of examples of sound theology well written.

The book contains sermons, treatises on prayer and Scripture, and several letters. In a series of letters to his mother-in-law, Knox seeks to help her deal with insecurity over salvation and a burdened, tender conscience. You’ve heard Knox thunder. Listen here as he comforts a tender soul with the balm of grace. It is a wonderful reminder that both voices are needed in a pastor.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *