In his opening statement in his disputation with the Abbot of Crosraguel, Knox had proudly contrasted the moral integrity of the Protestant ministers with the flagrant vice of the priests of the old church:

“If our lives shall be compared with the lives of them that accuseth us, be it in general or be it in particular, we doubt not to be justified, both before God and man. For how many ministers this day within Scotland is my Lord Abbot … able to convict to be adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, bloodshedders, oppressors of the poor widow, fatherless, or stranger … ?”

But before this statement was published in the verbatim report of the disputation, the case of Paul Methven had made a mockery of Knox’s words.

A Leader Falls

Methven had been elected as the minister of Jedburgh after the victory of 1560. This was an important position, because the Borders [a region bordering England] had not yet been converted, and Knox attached great importance, for political as well as religious reasons, to making the Borders Protestant. Methven, who more than any other man could be said to have started the revolution of 1559 with his passionate sermons in Dundee, seemed an eminently suitable person for the post.

But in the autumn of 1562, rumors began to circulate in Jedburgh that Methven was committing adultery with his young maidservant while his elderly wife was absent from home. When the rumors reached the General Assembly at Edinburgh during its meeting in December, the Assembly directed Knox to investigate the charge and to report to the church session of Edinburgh and to John Spottiswood, superintendent of Lothian. Knox traveled to Jedburgh with some elders of the church of Edinburgh, and on January 3, 1563, began hearing the case.

He ...

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