Archive for February, 2016

Edward VI: One Sword Is Yet Wanting

February 22, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Reformation by

Edward VI before his coronation

A slender young boy slipped out of his bed to prepare himself for the biggest event of his life. He was a small, sickly-looking boy, but his eyes shone with a radiant luster that seemed to glow with an inner light. Some remarked of him that he was an “angel in the body of a boy.” But this boy, a humble Christian, would have been the last to call himself an angel

Before getting dressed, he slipped to his knees to pray. This was a habit he carried all through his life. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed a prayer that his tutor had taught him and he had memorized,

Almighty and most merciful Father, I have erred and strayed from Thy ways like a lost sheep. I have followed too much the devices and desires of my own heart. I have offended against Thy holy laws. I have left undone those things which I ought to have done; and I have done those things which I ought not to have done; and there is no health in me. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon me a miserable offender. Spare Thou me, O God, which confess my faults, restore Thou me, that am penitent; according to Thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake, that I may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of Thy holy name. Amen.

These words are now famous as one of the important prayers in the English Book of Common Prayer. But in this day, they were the words composed by a Godly preacher named Thomas Cranmer for the personal use of his young charge, a prince named Edward. The boy prayed this prayer, not as liturgy, but as the fervent prayer of a humble heart.

Finishing his prayer, Edward allowed his servants to enter his private chamber in the Tower of London. They were already waiting to attend him. For three full weeks, they had been preparing for this event. They dressed their young master in a long gown of crimson velvet. The outer garments were embroidered with silver and gold. Rubies were set in his belt. Upon his head was placed a white cap set with diamonds and pearls. As the boy emerged onto the street, he was greeted by a shout of triumph from crowds assembled in the streets, “God save the King!”

Edward was only nine years old, but today was the procession to his coronation ceremony as King Edward VI, ruler of one of the most mighty and respected kingdoms on the face of the earth. In spite of the warmth of his long velvet robe, he trembled at the weight of responsibility he now carried. A pang of sadness also passed over him as he thought upon the event that made this day so important. Only recently he and his two sisters had wept together over the death of their father. The crown had passed by dynastic law to the head of Edward, the only son.

Edward VI around 1550

Finally, the young king was ready. First there would be a royal procession from the Tower of London through the streets of the city to Westminster Abbey, where the coronation ceremony was to take place on the following day. A magnificent horse was brought forward, and the young king had to be lifted onto the back of the noble steed. Bishops, dukes, lords, and officers took their places in the royal train.

Three swords were brought forward, emblematic of the three kingdoms under his dominion. These swords were to be carried in the procession. Edward now spoke up with a remark that surprised his attendants, “One sword is yet wanting.”

For a moment, the attendants thought they had omitted something in the royal ceremony. Had a treaty been made, a kingdom added, that they were unaware of? No. The youthful king had in mind a different sword. When the nobles and attendants inquired what the king meant, Edward replied,

The Bible. That book is the Sword of the Spirit, and to be preferred before these swords. That ought in all right to govern us, who use them for the people’s safety by God’s appointment. Without that sword we are nothing, we can do nothing, we have not power. From the Bible we are what we are this day. From it we receive whatsoever it is that we at present do assume. He that rules without it is not to be called God’s minister or king. Under the Bible, the word of God, we ought to live, to fight, to govern the people and to perform all our affairs. From it alone we obtain all power, virtue, grace, salvation, and whatsoever we have of divine strength.

At these words, a Bible was brought and carried in the royal procession in front of young King Edward. At Westminster, the king was prepared for the official coronation, which was to take place the following day.

On this next day, at Westminster Abbey, the King was brought before the people. The King of England lay prostrate before the Throne of God as Thomas Cranmer prayed for Divine Blessing upon the new king. Edward was anointed with oil, and then the Crown Imperial was placed upon his head. The crown he wore was actually a reproduction, specially made to fit his small head. Trumpets sounded in the hall as the people cried, “God save the King.”

Thomas Cranmer, the minister of God, now gave a charge to the king. For the first time in many long years, a King of England was crowned, not by the authority of the Roman Pope, but by the authority of Jesus Christ. Cranmer announced,

Not from the bishop of Rome, but as a messenger from my Saviour Jesus Christ, I shall most humbly admonish your Royal Majesty what things your highness is to perform.

Cranmer then proceeded to give the king a charge from the Bible. He quoted the duties of a king from the Book of Deuteronomy. He admonished King Edward to see that Jehovah be worshipped in truth, to destroy idolatry, and to banish the tyranny of Roman bishops from his dominions. He commanded him “to reward virtue, to avenge sin, to justify the innocent, to relieve the poor, to procure peace, to repress violence, and to execute justice” in his dominions.

Cranmer then compared the young king to Josiah, the eight year old king of Judah of whom it was written “while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images” (II Chronicles 34:3).

Concluding his address, Cranmer invoked the blessing of the God of David, Solomon, and Josiah upon the head of the new English monarch, “The Almighty God in His mercy let the light of His countenance shine upon your majesty, grant you a prosperous and happy reign, defend you, and save you; and let your subjects say, ‘Amen, God save the King.’”

Cranmer

Edward VI reigned only six short years. But his brief reign was a model of Godliness. Cranmer once said of the young king that he had “more divinity in his little finger than we have in our whole bodies.” Edward wrote a scholarly treatise “Against the Primacy of the Pope” when he was only 12 years old. He outlawed the idolatrous mass in England, enforcing the prohibition even against his own sister, Mary. His tender letters to his older sisters are a model of gracious but firm Christian witness. He elevated Godly preachers such as Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley to places of influence. He also secured the release of John Knox from the French galleys, paving the way for the Scottish Reformation. On the practical side, Edward founded schools for the poor and hospitals for the needy. Under his reign thirty-four editions of the English Bible were printed and disseminated over the land. This was all less than a decade after William Tyndale, the translator, had been burned at the stake.

Edward VI died at the age of fifteen. Bishop Hopper wrote of his life and death, “He died young but lived long, if life be action.” Edward VI has been called, and rightly so, the “British Josiah.” His example serves as an enduring model of what a Christian ruler over a Christian people ought to be. The “Sword of the Spirit” was the guiding rule of his life and reign, and God’s Word did not return void.

Bibliography

The British Josiah by N. A. Woychuk
The History of the Reformation by J. H. Merle D’Aubigne

Brother Against Brother at Petersburg

February 12, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Civil War, Videos, Weekly Video by

Robert Lewis Dabney: Hold Fast That Which Is Good

February 11, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Civil War by

Dabney

Prove All Things
Hold Fast That Which Is Good

So reads a tombstone of one of the most splendid “mighty men” the continent of North America has ever produced. Before we reveal his name, let us consider his influence. This elegant epitaph, drawn from I Thessalonians 5:21, accurately sums up the life of this man. The Greek word translated “prove” here is δοκιμάζω and means “to test” as an assayer or a metallurgist examines the quality of the metal of a coin. Our hero spent his long and useful life “testing” and “examining” the various trends of his day. He sounded warnings that anticipated some of the greatest disasters that befell the Christian world in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Yet, our hero was misunderstood and largely hated in his own lifetime, which was lived in the latter two-thirds of the 1800’s. He bore all sorts of hateful labels. Called an old fogey, a kill-joy, a racist, a critic, and a complainer, our hero ignored all the mud-slinging of his antagonists. Most of these angry labels were piled on him near the end of his long and useful life, and an ungrateful people hated the man who was trying to warn them of dangers lurking within their own homes and churches.

Born in Virginia in 1820, our hero was one of the most eloquent and lucid writers of his age. His background fully prepared him to handle the many areas of life and culture he addressed. He was a pastor, a farmer, a husband, a father, a university professor, an army officer, a lawyer, a scientist, an author, and a world traveler. Nothing escaped his penetrating gaze, and when his eyes were fixed upon something he considered a threat to the cause of Christ, woe be to that man who stood in his way. His pen cut deep. His arguments carried with them a cultivated and keen mind. He drew his authority from the Scripture, and wielded it with sharp and cutting precision. Here are some of the things that fell before his pen.

He discerned the early dangers that feminism would bring upon a patriarchal society. He loved the Biblical role of the wife and mother, being deeply devoted to the wife of his youth. He feared that feminism would destroy not only Biblical femininity, but Biblical manhood as well. He attacked it ferociously and defended the Biblical, time-honored role of a wife and mother as the crowning virtue of womanhood.

Long before the rise of Nazi-Germany, he asserted that the autocratic policies of men like Abraham Lincoln in the United States and Otto von Bismarck in Germany, as popular as these men were and still are in large parts of the modern world, would eventually lead to tyranny and centralized control of banking, education of children, farming, food production, religion, and local affairs. His views were not popular in his day, and the cause for which he fought was eventually suppressed by the brutal heel of Federal power, but our hero did not cease to warn that centralized power would become a major problem both in Europe and in America in the coming decades.

He also decried against Darwinian science. Long before the modern Creation science movement, he ferociously asserted the authority of God’s Word and the futility of any system of Christian synthesis with Darwinian evolution.
He also asserted that the new “higher textual criticism” coming out of the German rationalistic schools of thought would have a huge impact upon the honor that Christians gave to the Bible. He feared that men applying their depraved reasoning to the Bible would try to “explain away” its Divine origins. He feared that the rationalistic questioning of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch would lead to the undermining of the very authority of Scripture, and give so-called “scholars” a loop-hole to live as they chose, and take or leave the passages of Scripture they found.

Robert Lewis Dabney

But, closer to home, he also attacked things inside the church. He warned against worldliness in Christian families. He wrote a long and scathing paper against Christians engaging in popular amusements such as dancing and theatre. He wrote against innovation in church music. He asserted that novels, even “Christian novels,” and historical novels, were dangerous reading and should have no place in a Christian home.

For all these things, he was bitterly hated by many. He was viewed as out-dated, cynical, and overly harsh. But he labored on, his copious pen producing thousands of pages in his long and useful lifetime.

Though hated, our stalwart hero remained convinced of the Biblical truth of the positions he so firmly maintained. He closed one of his books with these words,

Let the arrogant and successful wrongdoers flout our defense with disdain. We will meet them with it again, when it shall be heard in the day of their calamity, in the day of impartial history, and in the Day of Judgment.

The name of our stalwart hero was Robert Lewis Dabney. The words quoted above were the words with which he concluded his Defense of Virginia and the South.

Dabney’s life was full of heartaches. He lost two of his sons to a malignant fever. He was stricken with malaria at the same time which led to his eventual blindness. He saw bitter feuds divide the churches over which he presided. He fought on the losing side of a war, and saw the cause which he loved trampled into the dust by the strong arm of centralized power. He lived the last of his life an exile from the university where he had taught so long, despised, ridiculed, and only enjoying the domestic comforts of the loyal love of his wife and children. He was blind and he suffered from severe pain, but he labored on, preaching and writing whenever he had the opportunity.

Dabney delivered a series of lectures shortly before his death. The elderly saint of God had to be led into the pulpit, where he lifted his sightless eyes to heaven and implored God’s blessing upon the young men and women of a new generation, that they might learn from the mistakes of the past, and be discerning in their time, “proving all things and holding fast that which is good.”

Shortly before his death, Dabney wrote to a friend,

Have I not written? My arguments, founded on Scripture and facts, are as impregnable as the everlasting hills. But who reads it? The self-satisfied insolence of the pharisaical slanders makes them disdain my work – they never condescend to hear of it. I have no audience.

Although relatively few in his own generation gave heed to his warnings, it is encouraging that there is a rising interest in the writings of Robert Lewis Dabney, and a number of his works have been republished by several publishing companies. His warnings against feminism, Unitarianism, rationalism, statist control of education, centralized national power, national banking, and the worldliness of the church have been fully realized, and we can stand amazed at his prophetic insight into the creeping errors of his own generation.

There are those that say to men like Dabney, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But the same Christ that said this in Matthew 7:1, went on to call men swine and dogs in just a few verses, and to urge His disciples to beware of “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Dabney was not being critical or judgmental in the harmful sense that Jesus warned against. He was being discerning, warning all who would listen that wolves in sheep’s clothing were creeping into the Church and State.

Finally, the day came when the mortal remains of Robert Lewis Dabney were laid to rest in the soil of his native State, Virginia. It was 1898. He was buried on the grounds of Hampden-Sydney College, where he had spent the majority of his life warning against the innovations of his era. Dabney was buried in the old Confederate uniform he had worn serving on the staff of Stonewall Jackson. The words said in the book of Hebrews concerning the first martyr, Abel, apply well to the life of R. L. Dabney, “He, being dead, yet speaketh.” As long as men shall read the writings of R. L. Dabney, his life of careful discernment will not be in vain. As long as lovers of truth shall make their pilgrimage to this quiet spot in central Virginia, they will read the motto of his life inscribed in stone, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”

Dabney’s Best Works
Defense of Virginia and the South,
Life and Campaigns of Lt. Gen. T. J. Jackson,
Five volumes of his published Discussions

Theodore Beza: John Calvin’s Successor

February 1, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in European, Reformation, Videos, Weekly Video by