Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Geneva Bible of 1559

One of the advertisements which I receive regularly on the internet is for the Geneva Bible of 1559. It is touted as the version of the Bible brought to America by the Puritans and consequently as the Bible not only of the Reformation but also of the American Revolution. It is a clever sales idea, but as an Anglican one that I must reject. Why? Because one of the things which an American child is quite unlikely to learn in the government schools is that the major leaders of the American revolution and the writing of the Constitution were not members of the denominations, but Anglicans. And that would make the real Bible of the American Revolution and the American founding precisely The Authorized Version of 1611, commonly called the King James version.

Since most American know very little of English history even as most Britons know very little of American history, it is probably time that we run through the facts. One of the great myths of American history is that the Pilgrims who came to what is now Massachusetts in 1620 were coming to this country for purposes of religious freedom. Absolutely nothing could be farther from the truth. For some period of time these folk had been living in Amsterdam and not in England, and in the Dutch states they had every bit of religious liberty which they could have desired. They didn't like it. Why? Because the freedom of Amsterdam threatened the absolutist ideas of this little group. They were afraid that in the middle of all that freedom their children would wander away from their version of the "True Faith." Hence their choice to come to America where they could set up their own little version of a religiously totalitarian state which allowed of no freedom of religion to anyone whose views or faith differed from their own. We face a similar situation today in that the very political and ideological heirs of the Puritans have done their best to control the levers of public opinion and admit no orthodoxy except their own.

A few years later with the Cromwellian revolution and the overthrow of both the monarchy and the Church of England, the same experiment was tried in England. It did not take very long for the majority of the English to decide that they didn't like it and the king returned from exile in 1660 and both the monarchy and the Church were restored. That meant a return to the services of the English Book of Common Prayer and the use of the King James version of the English Bible. And it was this version of both prayer book and Bible that a clear majority of the leaders of the American Revolution were raised on. The result was that when the Declaration of Independence was adopted two thirds of those who signed it were Anglicans. And the convention in Philadelphia which wrote the American Constitution was comprised of fifty per cent Anglicans plus one. There was another nominal Anglican but he was one of the two delegates to that convention who were deists.

One of the great American myths generally told by persons of a certain political persuasion is that the framers of the American system of government were deists and not Christians. These are the people who in fact hate the Church and hate Christianity, because the faith of English Christians has always led them to demand greater freedom for ordinary people. Take that first great document of liberty, the Magna Carta. The leader of the Baron's revolt against King John was none other than the archbishop of Canterbury and the place where it is easiest to see an original copy of that great document is at Salisbury Cathedral. By modern standards it was not much, but it contained that magical phrase, "the Church of England shall be free." John Lackland had attempted to sell it to the papacy.

One of the features of the Geneva Bible is the included commentaries. Rather than giving the reader the freedom to "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest" the text of Holy Scripture, these commentaries told the reader what the Scriptures meant and what he was to believe. And of course it was an interpretation heavily slanted from a continental Calvinist view. Among the reasons that King James authorized a new translation of the Bible based upon the best available Hebrew and Greek manuscripts was precisely the political and religious slant of these commentaries. He and the Church of England wanted a text that was the most faithful to the meaning of the original without the inclusion of later opinions.

In modern America we have a like situation in that we have people telling us what the Constitution means which is frequently almost the precise opposite of what the text actually says.

The point of this, if there is one, is that the English Church and her daughters who have been and remain true to the faith of the Bible and the prayer book as we have received it, that is to the 'doctrine, discipline and worship' of the Catholic and Christian church as Jesus handed it over to the apostles and they in turn to the sub apostolic Church is the greatest guarantor of human freedom and dignity which the world has ever know. Those who strike out at the faith and practice of the prayer book are also striking out at the very dignity and freedom of every man. One of the doctrines of the framers of the American Constitution and government was that we receive our rights, not from government but from God. And that is a doctrine which they learned both from the Bible, the Authorized Version, and from the Book of Common Prayer.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Feast of St George, Martyr

Today is the feast of St. George, the patron not only of England but of a very large number of countries, cities and provinces besides. It was made a feast day of the English church in the Synod of Oxford in 1222. But its importance in England increased when Edward III made him the patron of the Order of the Garter in 1348. The British war cry of "England and St George" began with the Hundred Years War as Edward III began his attempt to achieve the French crown, a claim based upon his descent from his mother, the French princess Isabella.

The prayer book collect: Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy Martyr George triumphed over suffering, and despised death : Grant, we beseech thee, that enduring hardness, and waxing valiant in fight, we may with the noble army of martyrs receive the crown of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Blessed George Selwyn

George Augustus Selwyn (5 April 1809 - 11 April 1878) was the first missionary bishop of New Zealand under the title of Bishop of Auckland and subsequently its first primate. Afterward he was the 90th bishop of Litchfield and died in that office.

O God, the light of the faithful and Shepherd of souls, who didst set blessed George Selwyn to be a bishop in the Church that he might feed thy sheep by his word and guide them by his example : Grant us, we pray thee, to keep the faith which he taught and to follow in his footsteps, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

The Scottish Book of Common Prayer