Parents and Predecessors
This piece came from a longer article on the manner marriage and familial love which drove early protestant ecumenicism. It can be read here. I felt the wisdom of King James VI & I’s Basilikon Doron worth posting since it carries a fifth commandment precept relating not only to the importance of ancestry but also speaks to our late-modern predicament. While still a Scottish King, yet knowing Scotland will be united with England, James warns his son, Prince Henry:
”It is then, the false and unreverent writing or speaking of malicious men against your Parents and Predecessors: ye know the command in God’s law, Honor your Father and Mother: and consequently, seen ye are the lawful magistrate, suffer not both your Princes and your Parents to be dishonored by any; especially, sith the example also toucheth yourself, in leaving thereby your successors, he measure of that which they shall meet out gain to you in your like behalf. I grant we have all our faults, which, privately betwixt you and God, should serve you for examples to meditate upon, and mend in your person; but should not be a matter of discourse to others whatsoever. And sith ye are come of as honorable Predecessors as any Prince living, repress the insolence of such, as under pretence to tax a vice in the person, seek craftily to stain the race, and to steal the affection the people from their posterity: For how can they love yo, that hated them whom of ye are come? Wherefore destroy men innocent young sucking Wolves and foxes, but for the hatred they bear to their race? and why will a coult of a Courser of Naples, give a greater price in a market, then an ###-colt, but for love of the race? It is therefore a thing montrous, to see a man love the child, and hate the Parents: as on the other part, the infaming and making odious of the parents, is the readiest way to bring the son in contempt. And for conclusion of this point, I may also allege my own experience: For besides the judgments of God, that with my eyes I have seen fall upon all them that were chief traitors to my parents, I may justly affirm, I never found yet a constant biding by me in all my straits, by any that were of perfect age in my parent days, but only by such as constantly bode by them; I mean specially by them that served the Queen my mother: for so that I discharge my conscience to you, my Son, in revealing to you the truth, I care not, what any traitor or treason-allower think of it” p. 21
Thinking in terms of “parents and predecessors” is not an easy task for modern Americans, but James’ wisdom contravenes today’s political correctness that usually depreciates obligations to family, “For how can they love you, that hated them whom of ye are come?”. Much of the Basilikon is devoted to attacks on democratic forces which James, in broad brush terms, considers Anabaptist and Puritan. Eventually “treason-allowers” would overrun the Stuart throne, perhaps starting with the democratic leveling of the church by puritan-congregationalists, followed by the self-summons of parliament, and finally culminating in the murder of king Charles and archbishop Laud. Republicanism and the democratic impulse hardly vanished after the Restoration. What meanwhile girded the monarchy’s supremacy-in- the-church was not political expediency. Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I & VI, and, to some extent, even the later George III were strong sovereigns. Rather, stability was secured by those divine blessings joined through the Godly honor of parents, “that thy days may be long in the land the Lord thy God giveth thee”.
“Neither deceive yourself with many that say, they care not for their Parents curse, so they deserve it not. O invert not the order of nature, by judging your superiors, chiefly in your own particular! But assure yourself, the blessing or curse of the Parents, hath almost ever a Prophetic power joined to it: and if there were no more, honor your Parents, for the lengthning of your own days, as God in his Law promiseth. Honor also them that are in loco Parentum unto you, such as your governors, upbringers, and praeceptors” p. 41
There is little that better sums the course of the cultural politics for the twentieth century, especially as it concerns the ever-expanding “civil rights” movement, than the “inversion of the natural order”. However, when England inverted family-based government, the King was the first causality. James provides several reasons for the superiority of the monarchist system, but foremost is Monarchy’s conformity to divine pattern, followed by an evolutionary custom, and finally the law of nature. James describes monarchy as that “form of government, as resembling divinity, approacheth nearest to perfection” p. 53. The divine aspect should be self-evident given Christ the Son and God the Father are both Almighty Kings. James makes a further case by speaking of tradition or fundamental law, and this is where a discussion on Providence determining the laws and habits of various tribes begins. James points back to King Fergus for the principle of overlordship in Scotland. Thirdly, by Nature James meant, “through the Law of Nature the King becomes a natural Father to all his Lieges at his Coronation: And as the Father of his fatherly duty is bound to care for the nourishing, education, and virtuous government of his children; even so is the king bound to care for all his subjects” p. 55. Also, “The King towards his people is rightly compared to a father of children, and to a head of a body composed of divers members: For as fathers, the good Princes, and Magistrates of the people of God acknowledged themselves to their subjects. And for all other well ruled common-wealths, the style of Pater patriae was ever, and is commonly used to Kings” p. 64. Of course, this is the patriarchal form.
However, all three characteristics went out the door with the permanent summons of a universally enfranchised parliament, the repeal of religious test acts, and unlimited session of legislation came to fore. John Keble warned the danger of atheists, dissenters, jews, and muslims gaining footholds in representative government, thus having say over the established church while instituting laws that eroded the three legs of Kingship and like patterns in the society. As the trend developed, something of God’s judgement could be seen upon England’s country as Keble’s prediction proved correct.
The remainder of the Basilikon provides insight into proper civility. For the choice of right youths invited to court, James warns Henry the danger of selecting boys from households well-acquainted with wickedness, infusing not only the mind but eventually the flesh, aka. household curses. This sounds like a derivative of Augustine’s original sin, or how actual sin harms both body and soul. We pray for body and soul, and holy communion is assumed by Anglicans to feed and restore both. Anyway, James’ admonition probably lends commentary to the idea of hardened wickedness in the course of providence,
“In fide parentum, as Baptism is used: For though anima non venit ex traduce, but it immediately created by God, and infused from above; yet it is most certain, that to the posterity, and run on a blood (as the Proverb is) the sickness of the mind becoming as kindly to some races, as these sickness of the body, that infect in the seed: Especially choose such minors are come of a true and honest race, and have not had the house whereof they are descended, infected with falsehood.” p. 31
James extends the same advice regarding Pages to the choice of wives. Here, the reciprocal nature of the fifth commandment arises, namely, the thought of posterity in marriage as well as a notion that virtue extends to race or body rather than something entirely spiritual,
“And lastly, remember to choose your wife as I advised you to choose your servants: that she be of a whole and clean race, not subject to the heredity sickness, either of the soul or the body: For if a man will be careful to breed horses and dogs of good kinds, how much more careful should he be, for the breed of his own loins? So shall you in your marriage have respect to your conscience, honor, and natural weal in your successors” p. 36
More can be read about fifth commandment injunctions as taught by old Anglican divinity here.
Quotes are from:
McIlwain, Charles Howard. The Political Works of James I Harvard (1918)
Charles is the author of Anglican Rose, a web blog where Continuing Episcopal worship and polity are explored. He would like to dialogue with any kinist interested in historical Anglicanism and original Protestantism. Charles currently lives and works in Northern California.