Thomas McCrie

The present Volume forms the first of A NEW AND UNIFORM EDITION OF THE WORKS OF THE LATE REV. THOMAS M’CRIE, D.D. This may be considered as the SEVENTH genuine edition of the Life of Knox.

The publlishers, in compliance with a very widely and warmly expressed desire on the part of the public, have considered it advisable to publish a uniform Edition of the Works of the respected Author; and the Life of Knox, as being at once the most popular of his works, and that which established the reputation of Dr M’Crie as an historian, has been deemed worthy of occupying the first place in the present issue.
It is needless, in this place, to expatiate on the intrinsic value of the Life of Knox. It has long held its place among the standard histories of the land. Under the engaging form of biography, it embraces the whole ecclesiastical history of the period to which it relates. The life of the Scottish Reformer is, in fact, the history of the Scottish Reformation. And in no other historical work will the facts of that period be found more clearly stated, or more fully authenticated. It would be equally superfluous to speak of the complete success which has crowned this first acknowledged effort of the Author in the field of history, - its triumphant refutation of the calumnies which had gathered around the name and darkened the memory of JOHN KNOX, - its almost immediate effect in placing him in the foremost rank among the patriots and benefactors of his country,- its gradual and growing influence in moulding the sentiments of thousands of readers, and in resuscitating the spirit and principles of our Reformation.
To this distinguished success, the character of the Author contributed fully as much as his talents. If the poet, the painter, or the musician, succeeds in proportion as he throws his whole soul into his composition, and catches the spirit of the theme which his genius aims to illustrate, it is not easy to see why the historian should be exempted from this rule, or what good reason there can be for supposing that impartiality in the statement of truth should be inconsistent with that enthusiasm which, in congenial minds, the love of the pure, the noble, and the great, must always inspire. This qualification Dr McCrie possessed in no ordinary degree; but while his heart beat in lofty sympathy with the hero whom he portrayed, and while his spirit rose with the subject before him, his high sense of integrity rendered him incapable of giving currency to falsehood, whether in the shape of hasty assertion, fraudful concealment, or wilful exaggeration. His mind, narrowed by no sectarian prejudices, was prepared to admire whatsoever was good and true in all parties and denominations. With the stern conscientiousness of the bench, he scanned the evidence placed before him on every side, and never ventured on a statement without satisfying himself that it rested on genuine and well-supported authority.
The consequence has been that not one of the leading facts in the Life of Knox has been disproved, or called in question, even by those who find it convenient to repeat the old exploded fabrications, as if no such Life had been written. A work so well authenticated, and so complete in itself, it has been thought unnecessary to attempt improving by any explanatory remarks or additional proofs. It has been here presented entire and untouched, as it appeared in the last edition revised by the Author.
If we may be permitted to judge from the popularity of the work with the higher and more select class of readers, we may safely anticipate a still higher measure of favour when it comes into the hands of the general public. John Knox was essentially a Man of the People; he was a type of the more high-souled, deep-thinking, and God-fearing of his countrymen, in the middle class of society; the people could not follow a sager or a safer leader; and the salutary influence which he exerted upon Scotland while he lived, may yet, to a large extent, be produced by his Life as recorded in these pages.
The Reformation from Popery marks an epoch unquestionably the most important in the history of modern Europe. The effects of the change which it produced, in religion, in manners, in politics, and in literature, continue to be felt at the present day. Nothing, surely, can be more interesting than an investigation of the history of that period, and of those men who were the instruments, under Providence, of accomplishing a revolution which has proved so beneficial to mankind. Though many able writers have employed their talents in tracing the causes and consequences of the Reformation, and though the leading facts respecting its progress in Scotland have been repeatedly stated, it occurred to me that the subject was by no means exhausted. I was confirmed in this opinion by a more minute examination of the ecclesiastical history of this country, which I began, for my own satisfaction, several years ago.
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