The Spirituality of the Church Speech

"Sir, we will always humbly reverence your majesty in public; but since we have this occasion to be with your majesty in private...we must discharge our duty, or else be traitors both to Christ and you. "

With news of an impending Spanish invasion, King James VI of Scotland (later King James I of England) had given orders to the ministers throughout Scotland to charge their members to “take up arms, provide supplies and meet mediated attacks.” Additionally, he relayed his desire to bring back certain Roman Catholic officials who would reestablish their presence and assert their authority over the churches. After an uproar among the people at the reception of the King’s resolutions, a number of ministers forged a private meeting with the King and express their concerns. 

 

Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a post about what has frequently been termed “the spirituality doctrine of the church.” I heartily commend this post to our readers, as it is quite a helpful introduction to the basics of Presbyterianism regarding the relationship between church and state. In that post, Kevin explains the significance of the Second Book of Discipline of the Church of Scotland–it being one of the foundational sources of the theological articulation of the spirituality of the church doctrine.

The Second Book of Discipline was largely the product of the labors of Andrew Melville, John Knox’s successor. Melville’s name is often inseparably linked to references to “the spirituality doctrine of the church”–both on account of his contributions to the Second Book of Discipline as well as on account of a well documented interaction that he had with King James in September of 1596. It is this interaction to which I wish to briefly turn our attention.

With news of an impending Spanish invasion, King James VI of Scotland (later King James I of England) had given orders to the ministers throughout Scotland to charge their members to “take up arms, provide supplies and meet mediated attacks.” Additionally, he relayed his desire to bring back certain Roman Catholic officials who would reestablish their presence and assert their authority over the churches. After an uproar among the people at the reception of the King’s resolutions, a number of ministers forged a private meeting with the King and express their concerns. Among them was James Melville, Andrew Melville’s nephew. The group of invited ministers had agreed that James Melville would be the best person to address the King “because of his courteous manner, and the favorable regard the King had shown him.” At a certain point in the meeting, however, Andrew Melville could no longer remain silent and–despite attempts by his nephew to silence him–“seized the kings robe by the sleeve…termed him ‘God’s silly vassal,” and explained that they had a “commission as from the mighty God.” He then proceded to give what may be called “the spirituality doctrine of the church speech.” It is as follows:

“Sir, we will always humbly reverence your majesty in public; but since we have this occasion to be with your majesty in private, and since you are brought in extreme danger of your life and crown, and along with you the country and the Church of God are like to go to wreck, for not telling you the truth and giving you faithful counsel, we must discharge our duty, or else be traitors both to Christ and you. Therefore, Sir, as divers times before I have told you, so now again I must tell you, there are two kings and two kingdoms in Scotland: there is King James, the head of the commonwealth, and there is Christ Jesus, the King of the Church, whose subject James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom he is not a king, nor a lord, nor a head, but a member.

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