King James I And The KJV Bible

King James I of England died in peace on March 5, 1625, at the age of 59, having caused the creation of the most popular text in all of human history.

James Charles Stuart was born at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, on June 19, 1566. His father was murdered before he was one year old and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, after a short spell on the Scottish throne was forced to abdicate to her son, James. She spent the next 19 years imprisoned in London by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, before being executed in February of 1587. So King James was raised without mother or father at hand.

James became King James VI of Scotland when he was 13 months old, with John Knox preaching at his coronation. However he was then placed under four tutors who disciplined his mind and life. James excelled in his studies, spoke many languages and was highly learned in many subjects.

James began to rule Scotland at age 19 and took Anne of Denmark for his Queen a few years later. Thus followed a happy marriage, producing nine children. James wrote poetry to his beloved bride.

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James believed that his monarchy was a divine appointment, subscribing to the notion of the Divine Right of Kings and the monarch’s duty to reign according to God’s law and the public good.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, James ascended to the English throne and united Scotland, England and Ireland for the first time, forming Great Britain, which is the title he liked to use.

There were several attempts on the King’s life, most notably that of Roman Catholic Guy Fawkes who, in 1605, attempted to blow up Parliament while the king was to be there. The plot was discovered and all conspirators executed, and the English celebrate Guy Fawkes Night on November 5 each year. James was no friend to Catholicism, strongly delineating the errors of Roman doctrine and spurning them. Yet he treated Romanist subjects fairly.

It was during the reign of this “wisest fool in Christendom”, as he is called by some historians, that this Scottish-born king of England granted permission for an ‘Authorised’ version of the Bible.

In 1604, at the Hampton Court Conference, the Puritan, Dr John Reynolds (or Rainolds) broached the subject.  The king was not happy with the Geneva Version which had been the “Bible of the people” for about half a century.

Thus it was that 54 men were nominated for the task … although we only know of 47 who actually took part – and in 1611 the “Authorised Version”, or “King James Version” was printed, and this has remained a firm favourite with millions of Christians for almost 400 years.

The men chosen to create the new Bible translation were the best linguists and scholars in the world. They were top of their field and brilliant men. Much of their work on the King James Bible formed the basis for our linguistic studies of today. The creation of this great text had a profound influence on English literature from then on.

Yet the translation and translators are not without criticism. Among the translators was “Richard Thomson, the fat-bellied Arminian who, they said, went to bed drunk each night…” (The Men Behind the KJV, by G. Paine, page 155). “Ah, yes,” says Donald Prout, “there are some curious moments in church history!”

There are two historical views of King James I of England. His detractors, such as Anthony Weldon and Francis Osborne, spoke scandalously of him after his death, when he could not defend his reputation. Despite the obvious bigotry and racial prejudice among the writings the claims have been given credence by many.

It has been said that to have the name of King James I on the frontispiece of the Scriptures is ‘a blasphemous joke’.  This was the king who persecuted Puritans and Presbyterians, was a “notable exponent of the Divine Right of Kings,” and caused thousands of Christians to leave England seeking religious liberty.  “He created the most openly homosexual and drunken court in England’s long history!” … was “headstrong and haughty” … “at odds with nearly everyone during his reign” … “never popular or highly respected”…

Other records of King James I show him to be a devoted husband and a god-fearing man, motivated by the highest ideals. His book, Basilicon Doron (the Kingly Gift), written to instruct his son who would succeed him, gives the following instructions:

“Diligently read his word, & earnestly … pray for the right understanding thereof. Search the scriptures saith Christ for they will bear testimony of me. The whole Scriptures saith Paul are profitable to teach, to improve, to correct, and to instruct in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect unto all good works.” “The whole Scripture contayneth but two things: a command and a prohibition. Obey in both… The worship of God is wholy grounded upon the Scripture, quickened by faith.”

When knowledge of that book got out the people demanded to have copies and it became a popular text in English, Welsh, Latin, French, Swedish and German for the following 50 years.

James Disraeli declared that James “had formed the most elevated conception of the virtues and duties of a monarch”.

James was an excellent writer and is regarded by some as the leading literary figure of his day, with his writings being among the most important and influential British writings of their period.

Despite the great achievements attributed to King James, he was no stranger to pain and grief. He endured poor health with various physical handicaps, especially in his legs and with an enlarged tongue. He suffered many falls, accidents and injuries. His diseases are listed as “crippling arthritis, abdominal colic, gout, inability to sleep, weak/spasmic limbs, nausea, frequent diarrhoea, and kidney pain“. His pain was so great that the king at times became delirious.

James also suffered from depression following the loss of his beloved wife Queen Anne in 1619. She was preceded in death by their eldest son, Prince Henry in 1612. The King was no stranger to pain and sorrow.

However, at the time of his death, James ruled over a nation that had enjoyed internal and international peace. He died peacefully and handed the throne to an adult son. There was indeed great grace upon his reign.

As a side-note to the KJV Bible the name “James” was inserted into the New Testament, in place of anyone among Jesus’ generation named Jacob. Jesus’ disciple and Jesus’ brother were not known as James, but as Jacob. The inclusion of the name James was a personal concession to the King.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

John Knox Trumpets Protestantism

John Knox died on November 25 in 1572.

The exact date of his birth, even the year, is unknown. Biographers range from 1505 to 1514, but nobody knows for sure. His birth is generally accepted to be at Giffordgate, 16 miles east of Edinburgh, in 1513 to 1514.

John entered the University of Glasgow in 1522, where he studied under John Major, one of the greatest scholars of the time. In 1540 he was already ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church and that he was a priest before he was 25 years of age.

John’s conversion to the Protestant faith likely came through the influence of George Wishart, the leader among the Scottish reformers, who met him in late 1545 and was burned at the stake shortly afterward. Wishart met Knox in December 1545.

John then spent some months as bodyguard (“drawn sword in hand”) to George Wishart. But on 29 February, 1546, Wishart was martyred.

John Knox was first called to the Protestant ministry at St. Andrews, which was throughout his life intimately associated with the Reformer’s career. The castle of St Andrews was attacked in July 1547 and Knox was arrested by the Roman Catholic authorities. Thus it was for 18 months that Knox found himself as a galley-slave on a French ship, the “Notre Dame”. The experience permanently injured his health.

In 1549 we find him preaching up a storm both in the British Isles and on the Continent. He then spent some years in Geneva, where Calvin was exercising a remarkable influence.

Knox returned to his native land “a Calvinist of the Calvinists”, and found himself in head-on collision with the Roman Catholic queen. When Mary, Queen of Scots, had mass celebrated in her palace chapel, the “thundering Scot” made known his feelings on this ‘sin of idolatry’ from the pulpit of St Giles.

His denunciations of the mass and Roman Catholicism in general did much to bring about a law, passed by the Scottish Parliament on 1 August, 1560, establishing Protestantism as the religion of that country. It is probably true to say that Knox was a stern man, but he lived in an age that needed someone of his character to stem the inroads of Romanism.

Among his writings are: “History of the Reformation in Scotland”, “Against the Monstrous Rule of Women” and a long and elaborate treatise on predestination published in 1560.

Shortly before his death he asked his wife to read him John 17 – “for that is where I first cast my anchor”.

At his graveside the Earl of Mortoun, regent of Scotland, in the presence of an immense funeral procession, declared: “Here lyeth a man who in his life never feared the face of man, who hath been often threatened with dagger, but yet hath ended his dayes in peace and honour.”

Speaking of John Knox, Thomas Carlyle said: “And to be sure there is a power in unswerving conviction that inevitably arrests the attention of both men and nations. There is an almost indescribable appeal that attaches itself to uncompromising vision and principled passion. This fact was undoubtedly illustrated quite vividly all throughout the life and work of John Knox.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

William Farel Brings Calvin to Geneva

This is the day that … William Farel died in 1565.

Farel started his religious career as a disciple of Catholic priest Jacques Lefevre d’Etaples, who promoted reform within the Catholic Church. When Farel’s ideas became more strident he left for Switzerland.

He brought the teaching of the Reformers to Geneva (Switzerland) – even rejoicing to see the Town Council pronounce Protestantism as the official religion! (21 May, 1536). Thus Geneva became the ‘Protestant Rome’.

When he heard that John Calvin, already famous as author of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, was passing through, Farel confronted the 27 year-old theologian in an inn.

He demanded that Calvin remain there and lead in the spiritual life of the city. Calvin replied that he was on his way to Germany to further his studies.

“May God curse your studies,” Farel replied vehemently, “if now in her time of need you refuse to lend your aid to His church.”

Calvin was struck with terror, as he himself later recorded. He stayed!

And with Farel at his side they led Geneva in what has been called “Reformed Theology”.

The strictures of the new Protestant Republic which Farel and Calvin drew up created negative reaction, and so they both ended up leaving Geneva in 1538. However Farel persisted in working to get Calvin back to Geneva to lead the Reformation process from there. This he succeeded in doing in 1541.

The Reformation Wall in Geneva features statues of four men: Farel, Calvin, Theodore Beza and John Knox. William Farel outlived Calvin by 15 months – dying at the age of 76.

His biographer writes: “Those who visited him in his last illness had a foretaste of Heaven. Christ had been magnified in his body, both by life and by death…”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Alexander Henderson Steers Scotland Through Troubled Waters

This is the day that …Alexander Henderson died in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1646.

Henderson was born in 1583 at Criech, Fifeshire. He graduated at the University of St Andrews in 1603 and in 1610 was appointed professor of rhetoric and philosophy. Shortly after this he was appointed to the parish of Leuchars by Archbishop George Gladstanes.

Henderson’s sympathies were with the organised church, which made him extremely unpopular at first. He subsequently changed his views about church government and became a Presbyterian in doctrine and order. This paved the way for him becoming an outstanding leader and statesman for the Presbyterian cause in the resultant clashes with the English monarchy.

He was a natural leader and was eloquent and effective in dealing with the Crown. When King Charles I sought to impose episcopacy (the rule of bishops) upon the Church of Scotland, it was Henderson who led the fight against it. He helped with the final draft of the “National Covenant” which began its public signing at Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh on March 1st, 1638. He debated the famous Aberdeen Doctors and was later chosen Moderator of the Scottish churches at the Glasgow Assembly on 21st of November 1638. That gathering deposed all the Scottish bishops, excommunicated a number of them, repealed all acts favouring episcopacy, and reconstituted the Scottish Kirk on thorough Presbyterian principles.

As leader of the Covenanters he steered the Scottish Church as their elected moderator (1638-1658) through twenty stormy years. Through his handling of the First Bishop’s War he made a favourable impression on King Charles. When the Scots saw that the King was preparing for the Second Bishop’s War they took the initiative and invaded England, securing a decisive victory. King Charles acceded to all their demands, however the formal development of the treaty was a long process, which was overseen by Henderson.

His crowning achievement could well be that he oversaw the establishment of the Solemn League and Covenant, which passed through both houses of the British Parliament, which thus allowed for the two systems of church government to co-exist.

For the last six years of his life he was rector at Edinburgh University.

“His name,” writes W. Barker, is “revered as second only to John Knox in the Church of Scotland”.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Andrew Melville’s Unrestrained Tongue

This is the day that … Andrew Melville was born in 1545. His family displayed the fighting Scottish spirit and his father died in battle when Andrew was just 2 years old. His mother died soon after and the lad was raised by his older brother.

With an aptitude for scholarship he outshone his peers in classic languages, studied abroad and became an educator himself. On his return to Scotland he was so effective in upgrading the universities there that they could not contain the students who wished to come.

Yet while this Scottish Reformer has been called “the father of Presbyterianism”, he was direct of speech and unafraid to speak roughly where he felt it appropriate.

As John Knox had withstood Queen Mary’s Romanist tendencies a generation previous, now the battle was with King James IV who declared that he was supreme “over all persons and causes, civil and ecclesiastical alike” (Fathers of the Kirk, page 48).

At an historic meeting in 1596 Andrew Melville called the King, to his face, “God’s sillie vassal,” and taking the king by the sleeve went on to remind him that there were two kingdoms in Scotland … and one of those was ruled by King Jesus, to whom King James IV must bow as a subject!

This fearless Scot was imprisoned in the Tower of London (1609-1611), in response to his writing a sarcastic review of English ecclesiastical practices. Then, at the request of a French noble, he was released to take up a professorship on the Continent. There he died, in Sedan, France, in 1622.

J.D. Douglas writes: “It was Presbyterianism of the type Melville had forged that ultimately won the victory some 80 years after his banishment and which still forms the basis of the national Church of Scotland today” (and of Presbyterian churches around the world). (Who’s Who in Church History, page 469).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.