Monday, August 6, 2012

Render unto Caesar...

John Stonestreet in "A Higher King than James" on Thomas Helwys, a Baptist:
...[I]t was a Protestant standing up for Catholics who gave us the idea of religious freedom as we now know it when he broke the spiral of silence four centuries ago.

In 1612, the English-speaking world first heard the radical idea of Thomas Helwys, a British missionary who co-founded the Baptist denomination. Helwys sought to challenge King James I’s tyranny over religion. This was no easy or safe task. For years, those who sought to practice Christianity according to their own consciences faced severe persecution. The year before, Baptist Edward Wightman was been burned at the stake for his beliefs. And while Helwys was working in The Netherlands, his own wife was thrown into prison back home.

Desperate to stop the persecution, Helwys spoke up. But rather than beg the king for mercy, he made an audacious move that ultimately cost him his life.

With his book, “A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity,” hot off the press, Helwys attached a polite cover letter and mailed this historic defense of religious liberty to King James. Needless to say, the king was less than pleased, and four years later, Helwys died in Newgate Prison, a victim of the persecution he sought to end. ....

His words renouncing the persecution against Roman Catholics are worth repeating here:
“For we do freely profess that our lord the king [of England] has no more power over their consciences than over ours, and that is none at all. For our lord the king is but an earthly king, and he has no authority as a king but in earthly causes…For men’s religion to God is between God and themselves.”
A Higher King than James