I’ve been reading a lot of King James lately. He’s been the vicitim of some pretty nasty characterizations over the years, and I’m sure he had his faults, but what is becoming increasingly clear is that the fact and sincerity of his religion was not one of those faults. Indeed, he is clearly an Evangelical who takes his duty before God very seriously. Here are a few selections from his Basilicon Doron, a book meant to instruct his son on how to govern the kingdom he would inherit.
He notes the sections of his book, especially those pertaining to his own faith:
To come then particularly to the matter of my Booke, there are two speciall great points, which (as I am informed) the malicious sort of men have detracted therein; and some of the honest sort have seemed a little to mistake: whereof the first and greatest is, that some sentences therein should seeme to furnish grounds to men, to doubt of my sinceritie in that Religion, which I have ever constantly professed… (King James VI and I Selected Writings. ed. Neil Rhodes et. al., 203)
Some of the more extreme preachers in James’s day had begun circulating the rumor that he was not actually a Christian. His response is clear:
The first calumnie (most grievous indeed) is grounded upon the sharpe and bitter wordes, that therein are used in the description of the humors of Puritanes, and rash-headie Preachers, that thinke it their honour to contend with Kings, and perturbe whole kingdoms… (204)
James further explains his attitude towards the Puritans:
So as if there were no more to be looked into, but the very methode and order of the booke, it will sufficiently cleare me of that first and grievousest imputation, in the point of Religion: since in the first part, where Religion is onely treated of, I speake so plainely. And what in other parts I speake of Puritanes, it is onely of their morall faults, in that part where I speake of Policie: declaring when they contemne the Law and sovereigne authoritie, what exemplare punishment they deserve for the same. And now as to the matter it selfe whereupon this scandal is taken, that I may sufficiently satisfie all honest men, and by a just Apologie raise up a brasen wall or bulwarke against all the darts of the envious, I will the more narrowly rip up the words, whereat they seeme to be somewhat stomacked. (204)
Notice that James does not disagree with the Puritans’ theology in general. He does not single out their soteriology or views of sacramental efficacy. There’s no mention of predestination or justification. James says that the Puritans have moral failings. They break the law and reject the authorities.
James also considers the Puritans to be practical anabaptists. They teach the same relationship of church and state, and they advocate rebellion against the civil authorities Continue reading