September 2: Andrew Melville’s Two-Kingdom Speech

The day is lost to church history. We know the month and the year of the Two Kingdom Speech of Andrew Melville. That month and year was September 1596. But the exact day is lost to us.  So this author is going to put it on September 2, this day in Presbyterian history, because it is too important not to consider it.

The elders of the General Assembly were meeting in Cupar, Fife, Scotland. Due to a breach of faith on the part of King James, the assembly had decided to sent a deputation to seek the resolution of their concerns. Heading that deputation was James Melville, who was chosen because of his courteous manner and the apparent favor he had with the king. Along side him, out of the spotlight, was his uncle, Reformation leader Andrew Melville.

Barely had James Melville begun speaking before the king cut him off and accused him of meeting in a seditious manner with other elders of the kirk, and bringing causeless fears before the people of Scotland. Andrew Melville stepped in, despite his nephew’s attempt to keep him silent, by taking the king’s robe by the sleeve, and saying that the king was “God’s silly vassal.”

“Sir,” said Andrew Melville, “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 your faithful counsel, we must discharge our duty, or else be traitors both to Christ and to you. Therefore, Sir, as divers times before I have told you, so now again I must tell you, there are 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. Sir, those whom Christ has called and commanded to watch over his church, have power and authority from Him to govern his spiritual kingdom, both jointly and severally; the which no Christian king or prince should control and discharge, but fortify and assist; otherwise they are not faithful subjects of Christ and members of his Church. We will yield to you your place, and give you all due obedience; but again, I say, you are not the head of the Church; you cannot give us that eternal life which we seek for even in this world, and you cannot deprive us of it. Permit us then freely to meet in the name of Christ, and to attend to the interests of that Church of which you are the chief member. Sir, when you were in your swaddling clothes, Christ Jesus reigned freely in this land, in spite of all his enemies. His officers and ministers convened and assembled for the ruling and welfare of his Church, which was even for your welfare, defense and preservation, when these same enemies were seeking your destruction. Their assemblies since that time have continually have been terrible to these enemies, and most steadfast to you. And now, when there is more than extreme necessity for the continuance and discharge of that duty, will you (drawn to your own destruction by a most pernicious counsel) begin to hinder and dishearten Christ’s servants and your most faithful subjects, quarreling them for their convening, and the care they have of their duty to Christ and you, when you should rather commend and countenance them, as the godly kings and emperors did? The wisdom of your counsel, which I call devilish, is this, that you must be served by all sorts of men, to come to your purpose and grandeur, Jew and Gentile, Papist and Protestant; and because the Protestants and ministers of Scotland are over strong, and control the king, they must be weakened and brought low by stirring up a party against them, and, the king being equal and indifferent, both should be fain to flee to him. But, Sir, if God’s wisdom be the only true wisdom, this will prove mere and mad folly; His curse cannot but light upon it; in seeking both ye shall lose both; whereas in cleaving uprightly to God, His true servants would be your sure friends, and He would compel the rest counterfeitly and lyingly to give over themselves and serve you.” (Melville’s Dairy, pp. 245, 246, quoted in W.M. Hetherington, “History of the Church of Scotland” p. 105.

Words to Live By:
Charles Hodge says in commentary on Romans 13:2  “we are to obey all that is in actual authority over us, whether their authority be legitimate or usurped, whether they are just or unjust. The actual reigning emperors were to be obeyed by the Roman Christians, whatever they might think as to his title to the scepter. But if he transcended his authority, and required them to worship idols, they were to obey God rather than man. This is the limitation to all human authority. Whenever obedience to man is inconsistent with obedience to God, then disobedience becomes a duty.” (Commentary to the Epistle to the Romans, by Charles Hodge, p. 406)

Tags: , , ,


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *