“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15.
I love reading of the last days of great saints. While death is a fearsome thing to most, for the believer it is a gateway into life—life like we have not yet known, and cannot imagine. At long last, we will be at home with the Lord, free from all pain and suffering, disappointments and failures, and, most wonderful of all, free from sin. John Knox was such a man, and so was able to pass from this world in peace. Iain Murray writes,
In the spring of 1572, while Knox was still in St. Andrews, there was a marked decline in his health, yet in August he was able to return to Edinburgh, and, after thirteen months absence, preach again in the pulpit of St. Giles. But the vast congregation could no longer hear his now feeble voice, and thereafter he chose the pulpit of the much smaller Tolbooth Church where he began to preach on the crucifixion on 21 September. The English ambassador reported on 6 October, ‘John Knox is now so feeble as scarce can he stand alone, or speak to be heard of any audience,’ Yet he was able, on Sunday, 9 November, to preach at the installation of his successor, James Lawson. It was the last time he was to leave his home. The following Thursday he had to lay aside reading and on the Friday, confused which day it was he declared he meant to go to church and preach on the resurrection of Christ. A week later, with increasing difficulty in breathing, he ordered his coffin to be made and waking hours were now spent in hearing Scripture read (especially Isaiah 53, John 17 and Ephesians), saying good-bye to friends, and speaking brief words of testimony and prayer: ‘Live in Christ. Live in Christ, and then flesh need not fear death – Lord, grant true pastors to thy Church, that purity of doctrine may be maintained.’
On Monday, November 1572, he insisted on rising and dressing but within half an hour he had to be put back to bed. To the question of a friend, Had he any pain?, he replied: ‘It is no painful pain, but such a pain as shall soon, I trust put an end to the battle.’ There was further intermittent conversation that day and the last reading of 1 Corinthians 15 at which he exclaimed, ‘Is not that a comfortable chapter?’ About eleven o’clock that evening, he said, ‘Now it is come’, and, lifting up one hand, he passed through his final conflict in peace.
In the words of his secretary, Richard Bannatyne, In this manner departed this man of God: the light of Scotland, the comfort of the Church within the same, the mirror of godliness, and pattern and example of all true minister.
Iain Murray, A Scottish Christian Heritage
AND SO I END
Rendering my troubled and sorrowful spirit in the hands of the eternal God earnestly trusting at his good pleasure to be freed from the cares of this miserable life and to rest with Christ Jesus my only hope and life.
A prayer of John Knox, copied from a plaque in his home Edinburgh, Scotland.