The passage below is excerpted from a letter written by John Knox in 1557 before leaving Scotland for exile in Geneva. Knox addressed the letter to ‘His Brethren in Scotland,’ that is, Christ’s brethren, the Church. The complete letter appears in the new edition of the Selected Writings of John Knox: Public Epistles, Treatises, and Expositions to the Year 1559, printed by Presbyterian Heritage Publications: Dallas, 1995. Knox’s epistle bears the original subtitle ‘A most wholesome counsel how to behave ourselves in the midst of this wicked generation, touching on the daily exercise of God’s most holy and sacred word.’ This excerpt addresses an important arena of discussion of God’s word, one perhaps even more neglected today than the family: the congregation. It seems to have been Knox’s view that it was appropriate for the men to ask questions and express their understanding in the congregation after the sermon. This is our practice at the Covenant Family Fellowship.
‘[If] any brother have exhortation, question, or doubt, let him not fear to speak and move the same, so that he do it with moderation, either to edify or be edified. And hereof I doubt not but that great profit shall shortly ensue. For first, by hearing, reading, and conferring the scriptures in the assembly, the whole body of the scriptures of God shall become familiar; the judgments and spirits of men shall be tried, their patience and modesty shall be known; and finally their gifts and utterances shall appear. Multiplication of words, prolix [wordy, tedious] interpretations, and willfulness in reasoning are to be avoided at all times, and in all places, but chiefly in the congregation, where nothing ought to be respected, except the glory of God, and comfort and edification of our brethren.’