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King Charles I


Continuing our look at 17th Century Scottish Church history.


When James died in 1625, his son Charles I took the throne, having been left by his father a book, of James’ own writing, called, “Basilicon Doron” (Greek for the Royal Gift).

The book set forth two propositions,

* That kings are invested with a divine right to govern.

* That Presbyterian Church government is the parent of all anarchy.

Charles was anything but Presbyterian in his beliefs, and his father’s book became his guiding principle in his relationships with the church. When he took office, Charles began to put into practice the rules of the book. He married a Roman Catholic wife, showing in which direction he was going right from the start. He abolished parliament, his argument being that a king, enthroned by divine right had no need for a parliament. He imposed new taxes, made new laws on his on authority, and set up the Star Chamber, to enforce his will. Any person, who showed the slightest hint of resistance against the king, even in a strictly legal manner, was brought before the chamber, heavily fined or imprisoned. They could be made a public humiliation in the stocks, where a detractor from the Royal law would be placed, having had his ears cropped off, his nose slit, and his cheeks branded with a hot iron. So England was transformed in a short space of time, with all her liberties swept away before the king’s command. Scotland could not long remain outside his evil ambitions, and more so the Kirk, for a church with a free conscience is in direct opposition to a despotic monarchy.

In 1633 Charles came north to Scotland to be (belatedly) crowned at Scone. While in the northern kingdom he created the bishopric of Edinburgh, and made the High Kirk of St Giles its Cathedral. Charles then imposed Laud’s new liturgy upon the Kirk in 1637, (the event which provoked the declaration of the NATIONAL COVENANT OF SCOTLAND – Actually, this signing of the National Covenant was not the first appearance of the document. It had actually been presented twice before. In 1581 James had signed the so-called Negative Confession, a fiercely anti-Catholic document that is reproduced in the first four chapters of the National Covenant. However, within three years he had also signed the Black Acts, asserting the primacy of the King over the state.).

To be continued…

Next instalment: Laud’s Liturgy

From → Covenanters

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