HONOURING THE KING

By Stephen Green

First Published in Christian Voice June 2013

1Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.

There is a story of a public house which has a sign over the counter saying ‘No talk of religion or politics in this bar.’  Religion and politics are the two most important things in life.  How we as individuals, families and communities relate to God and how society should be organised are worth talking about.  They are so momentous men fall out over them, which is certainly why that landlord thought their discussion on his premises could tend towards disorder and loss of custom.

There are those who would regard religion and politics as unrelated.  They would say that you can talk of one, or you can talk of the other, but you can’t talk about the two together.  And for as many as say that mixing religion and politics is impossible, there are others who say that although it may be possible to combine the two, it is not just undesirable to do so, but ‘dangerous’, particularly dangerous, they mean, to their own point of view.

Measures were taken in the 18th century, in the Act of Settlement 1701, to exclude the British monarchy from politics as well, making the king and queen subservient to Parliament.  Today there is a movement, not particularly strong, to exclude our monarch from religion, by sending the Church of England down the same road to disestablishment as went the Church in Wales in living memory.

In the face of all that, it is refreshing to have such a rich amalgamation of religion, politics and monarchy as the Coronation Service.  In 838 King Egbert of Wessex made a treaty with the See of Canterbury, as a result of which his successors would be consecrated by the Archbishop.  The service today retains essential features from the day Edgar was anointed crowned King of All England by Archbishop Dunstan in Bath on 11th May 973.

At the dictation of Archbishop Dunstan, Edgar took a threefold oath:

‘To guard the church of God, To forbid Violence and Wrong, And to keep Justice, Judgment and Mercy.’

After this, the king was anointed and then crowned. The act of anointing King Edgar, an outward sign for all present of God’s grace given to him, was considered even more important than his coronation, because it set him apart from other princes and consecrated him to rule under the authority of God. The anointing, modeled on the anointing of king Solomon by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, is an unbroken tradition which extends to our own day.  The great anthem ‘Zadok the priest’ by George Frederick Handel was first performed at the coronation of George II in 1727.

The Coronation Service takes the Anglican Order for Holy Communion as its starting point, and interrupts it with the royal rituals of oath-taking, anointing, investiture, crowning and homage.

In 1953, the Epistle for the Coronation Communion Service was 1st Peter 2:13-17 with which we opened.  Religion and politics are certainly mixed in this reading, with its exhortation to honour the king coming only after the commands to honour all men, love the brotherhood (of believers, obviously) and fear God.

We are told to place ourselves under the laws of the state ‘for the Lord’s sake’ and we are told that this is ‘well doing’.  From that, we could draw the inference that we are to put up with whatever laws are passed, but Peter goes on to say that the king sends governors ‘for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.’  That, for him, is what the law is there to do. The Apostle Paul says almost the same thing when he writes to the church in Rome:

Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Both Peter and Paul agree about the purpose of the law, and it must be up to the church in every age to continue their witness.  Its purpose is to punish evil-doers and praise those who do well.  To find definitions and examples of both evildoers and those who do well we need look no further than the pages of holy scripture.  Almighty God has laid out in his commandments the standards by which every society is to measure evil doing and well doing.

Sadly, all over the Western world, laws are now being made for the praise of evildoers, and for the punishment of them that do well.  We set out in Britain in Sin some examples of such laws in Britain.  Since the publication date of Britain in Sin, some fifteen years ago, the pace of law-making in direct opposition to the principles of 1 Pet 2:14 have gathered pace.

Obviously, not every evil-doer is being praised under the laws being passed today, but some obvious ones are.

During the 1960s, an abortionist went from being a criminal to a law-abiding citizen, the death penalty passed from the wicked by the state to the innocent within the family, adulterers were allowed to break up a marriage and retain half of its assets, pornographers were given a defence and men were allowed to commit sodomy.  All these are evil-doers according to the laws of God.

The enactment of ‘gay marriage’, which may God forbid, would be the ultimate of praise for what the Bible describes as an abomination.  Homosexuals have almost as many rights as they could think of today, but what eludes them is honour.  They think being ‘married’ will confer that honour.

The corresponding punishment of those who do good took a little while longer to swing into action.  I’ll agree that In the USA, pro-lifers have suffered police persecution outside abortion clinics for some time, and a better collection of people doing good than those trying to save innocent lives it would be hard to find.  But in the UK, it needed the various sexual orientation equality laws before those doing good by holding to Biblical principles could be punished either by losing their employment or by penalties in the courts.

We all know the names: Lilian Ladele, sacked as a registrar when the law changed to allow civil partnerships, Gary McFarlane, removed for voicing concerns about having to give advice on homosexual activities, Adrian Smith, demoted for saying on his personal Facebook account that gay marriage was ‘an equality too far’ and Peter and Hazlemary Bull, whose business was decimated by homosexual activists, to list just a few.

A hate-crimes law, under which anyone speaking up against sodomy would face criminal charges, would be another step on the way to punishment of those who do well by standing up for Christ, but the passing into law of ‘gay marriage’ would have a very similar effect on those in public authorities from schools to the civil service.

It is hard to imagine a world in which abortion and sodomy were illegal, where there was complete freedom to preach the Gospel, where a man brought home a family wage and parents whose marriage was in difficulties stayed together for the sake of their children, where pornography was illegal and bad language in public unheard of.  But this was the world of 1953 in which our Queen was crowned.

The Coronation Service is steeped in Jewish and Christian symbolism.  The anointing, according to Archbishop Fisher, writing at the time, is ‘a sacrament going back to the times of David and Solomon, by which the Queen is consecrated to be God’s anointed servant.’   It is the ‘spiritual climax of the proceedings’, he said, just as the crowning is ‘the spectacular climax’.

The oath and the presentation of the Holy Bible as ‘the rule for the whole life and government of Christian Princes’ further combine politics and religion, while The Orb set under the Cross from the Crown Jewels is to remind Her Majesty that ‘The Whole Earth is Subject to the Power and Empire of Christ our Redeemer.’

The Gospel reading was Matthew 22:15-22.  I wrote about this crucial word back in 2005 and showed that the words of Christ limit the temporal authority of Caesar, not that of God.  When we ‘render unto God that which is God’s’, we give God everything, and acknowledge that he has all authority in heaven and in earth.  Temporal authorities may only draw their authority from the Almighty law-giver.

It is from God that the Queen derives the authority over her civic realm, and the Sceptre with the Cross given to her remains a symbol of such true and godly government.  The Sceptre with the Dove indicates her spiritual authority and also speaks of the quality of  mercy.

The great sword of state is the one spoken of by the Apostle Paul in Romans 13.  It was a reality in his day, just as it was on the day the Queen was crowned. With it she was to ‘do justice, stop the growth of iniquity, protect the holy Church of God, help and defend widows and orphans, restore the things that are gone to decay, maintain the things that are restored, punish and reform what is amiss, and confirm what is in good order.’

There is a quaint ceremony during the presentation of the sword which is worth mentioning.  It is the redemption of the sword.  It took some thought and research before it became apparent to me what is going on.  The Queen had voluntarily offered the sword to God upon the altar.  To get it back she had to pay something to the God to whom she had given it.  It fell to the chief Earl to give the Dean a bag containing one hundred shillings in order to redeem the sword.  Having secured it on her behalf, he would not be easily letting it go.

The promise given to the Queen when she received the sword was ‘that doing these things you may be glorious in all virtue; and so faithfully serve our Lord Jesus Christ in this life, that you may reign for ever with him in the life which is to come’.

What would happen if she were to be prevented from doing them was not of course addressed.  Since 1701, whether the Queen or any modern monarch can actually carry out the coronation oath is in the hands of a group of ruthless, ambitious men known as the Queen’s (or King’s) ministers.

I do hope and pray that reading the Coronation Service as it happened 60 years ago will bless you.  To sum it all up, our Queen was anointed, crowned and invested with her regalia to rule our nation under God.  Whatever has happened since, that is a precious heritage.  We should like to believe that her Majesty is well aware of her responsibility before the King of kings.  Let us pray that she will live to see a time when politics and true religion and virtue are melded together with such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Christ will be praised and glorified by both the greatest and the least in our land, and that all will fear God and honour the king.

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3 comments

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  1. Rox

    They are going to have some trouble next time filling a bag with a hundred shillings, and even if they do, it’s only £5.
    Perhaps a hundred pound coins would be a little more realistic. Times have indeed changed since 1953 .

    1. Stephen

      That’s the government-instituted robbery of inflation for you…

  2. jsampson45

    I regret to say that the Coronation Oath included the words ‘to the utmost of your power’. This is the genius of the Church of England.

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