The First Blast of the Trumpet

The First Blast of the Trumpet
Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

John Knox

Extracted from: Selected Writings of John Knox: Public Epistles, Treatises, and Expositions to the Year 1559

Editor’s Note

The First Blast of the Trumpet is, perhaps, Knox’s most famous and controversial work. In the twentieth century, few people have read the book, and still fewer have made an attempt to understand the reformer’s position.

For Knox, the teaching of scripture alone is sufficient to prove that women should not bear rule over men. The testimony of scripture is so plain, he wrote, that “to add anything were superfluous, were it not that the world is almost now come to that blindness, that whatsoever pleases not the princes and the multitude, the same is rejected as doctrine newly forged, and is condemned for heresy” (p. 390).

Knox knew that his 16th-century opponents expected citations from classical and patristic sources. Therefore, the reformer takes aim at both the position and polemical methods of his critics by quoting some of the stoutest comments imaginable, refuting the government of women. Whether Knox personally joins with the ancient authors in every detail is immaterial; by numerous references to antiquity, the reformer demonstrates that there is a venerable history of opposition to the rule of women. Still, Knox points out that his main argument, even if stripped of the patristic citations, is fundamentally based upon the authoritative word of God. “For as I depend not upon the determinations of men, so I think my cause no weaker, albeit their authority is denied unto me; provided that God by his revealed will, and manifest word, stands plain and evident on my side” (p. 400).

Contemporary readers should also recall that, when Knox speaks of “nature,” he is often making reference to human nature. Even so, he states, “this part of nature is not my most sure foundation” (p. 385). Again, his principal concern is with the revealed will of God, written in the Bible.

The treatise was published in Geneva in 1558. As indicated in the preface, the work was published anonymously. The author wished to conceal his identity, until he had issued two more blasts, intending to disclose his name with the publication of the Third Blast. The reformer’s plan to write two sequels remained unfulfilled, although he later published a summary of the contents which he proposed to treat in the Second Blast. The summary of the Second Blast was appended originally to his Appellation (1558), but readers will find this summary following the First Blast in the present volume (pages 435-36).

The First Blast of the Trumpet
Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women


The kingdom appertains to our God. [Psalm 22:28]

Wonder it is, that amongst so many pregnant wits as the isle of Great Britain has produced, so many godly and zealous preachers as England did sometime nourish, and amongst so many learned, and men of grave judgment, as this day by Jezebel are exiled, none is found so stout of courage, so faithful to God, nor loving to their native country, that they dare admonish the inhabitants of that isle, how abominable before God is the empire or rule of a wicked woman (yea, of a traitress and bastard); and what may a people or nation, left destitute of a lawful head, do by the authority of God’s word in electing and appointing common rulers and magistrates. That isle (alas!) for the contempt and horrible abuse of God’s mercies offered, and for the shameful revolting to Satan from Christ Jesus, and from his gospel once professed, does justly merit to be left in the hands of their own counsel, and so to come to confusion and bondage of strangers. [1]But yet I fear that this universal negligence of such as sometimes were esteemed watchmen shall rather aggravate our former ingratitude, than excuse this our universal and ungodly silence in so weighty a matter. We see our country set forth for a prey to foreign nations; we hear [of] the blood of our brethren, the members of Christ Jesus, most cruelly to be shed; and the monstrous empire [government] of a cruel woman (the secret counsel of God excepted) we know to be the only occasion of all those miseries; and yet with silence we pass the time, as though the matter did nothing appertain to us. [2]But the contrary examples of the ancient prophets move me to doubt of this our fact. For Israel did universally decline from God by embracing idolatry under Jeroboam ­ in which they did continue even unto the destruction of their commonwealth (1 Kings 12:25-33). And Judah, with Jerusalem, did follow the vile superstition and open iniquity of Samaria (Ezek. 16). But yet the prophets of God ceased not to admonish the one and the other; yea, even after God had poured forth his plagues upon them. For Jeremiah did write to the captives in Babylon, and did correct their errors, plainly instructing them who did remain in the midst of that idolatrous nation (Jer. 29). Ezekiel, from the midst of his brethren (prisoners in Chaldea) did write his vision to those that were in Jerusalem; and, sharply rebuking their vices, assured them that they should not escape the vengeance of God, by reason of their abominations committed (Ezek. 7-9).

[3]The same prophets, for comfort of the afflicted and chosen saints of God, who did lie hid amongst the reprobate of that age (as commonly does the corn amongst the chaff), did prophesy and before speak the changes of kingdoms, the punishment of tyrants, and the vengeance which God would execute upon the oppressors of his people (Isa. 13; Jer. 46; Ezek. 36). [4]The same did Daniel, and the rest of the prophets, every one in their season. By whose examples, and by the plain precept which is given to Ezekiel (3″18-21), commanding him that he shall say to the wicked, “Thou shalt die the death,” we in this our miserable age are bound to admonish the world, and the tyrants thereof, of their sudden destruction, to assure them and to cry unto them, whether they list or not, “that the blood of the saints, which by them is shed, continually crieth and craveth the vengeance in the presence of the Lord of Hosts” (Rev. 6:9-10). And further, it is our duty to open the truth revealed unto us, unto the ignorant and blind world; unless that, to our own condemnation, we list to wrap up and hide the talent committed to our charge.

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