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Thursday, December 16, 2010
Date Posted:

Edward VI
Good Queen Bess

Edward VI - The Young Josiah

Serialisation of the book Our Protestant Heritage
Rev W St Clair Taylor

"Every reign which attempted to bring back Popery, or even to give it that share of power which could in any degree prejudice Protestantism, has been marked by signal misfortune. It is a striking circumstance, that almost every reign of this Popish tendency has been followed by one of purely Protestant; and, as if to make the source of the national peril plain to all eyes, those alternate reigns have not offered a stronger contrast in their principles than in their public fortunes. Let the rank of England be what it might under the Protestant Sovereign, it always sank under the Popish; let its loss of honour, or of power, be what it might under the Popish Sovereign, it always recovered under the Protestant, and more than re-covered; was distinguished by sudden success, public renovation, and increased stability to the freedom and fortunes of the Empire." - Rev. G. Croby, 1845.

Brief mention must now be made of two children of Henry VIII who subsequently ascended the throne, and shaped the course of history so far as this island is concerned in a very definite way, Edward VI and Mary.

When Henry died on January 28th, 1547, Edward, son of Jane Seymour, succeeded to the throne at the early age of nine years. Whatever his father may have been in character and conduct, he had not denied his son the best education it was possible for him to provide.

The Scriptures were not written in order to make us scholars but saints, but Edward through much attention to the Word of God was both. His tutors, Sir Anthony Cook, Dr. Richard Cox, and Sir John Cheke, were not only scholars but Bible loving men. In this atmosphere of piety and Christian influence the young prince grew so that he was regarded by all as learned, amiable and pious. The Scriptures, we must ever remember, were not written in order to make us scholars but saints, but Edward through much attention to the Word of God was both.

Of course, when we remember that Cranmer was also personally responsible for the young prince's studies we can understand in some measure the reason he was so pronounced a Protestant. He sought, as Josiah of old, to walk before the Lord, keeping His Commandments, His Testimonies, and His Statutes.

Of Josiah, it is written: "Like unto him there was no King before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, according to the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him." 2 Kings 23:25.

It is declared of Edward by William Thomas (a great and learned man of his time): "If ye knew the towardness of that young prince, your hearts would melt to hear him named, and your stomach would abhor the malice of them that would do him ill; the beautifullest creature that liveth under the sun; the wittiest (most learned), the most amiable and the gentlest thing of all the world. Such a spirit of capacity for learning the things taught him by his schoolmasters that it is a wonder to hear say." Here is another illustration of his joy and readiness to witness to his Lord on every occasion.

He then commanded a Bible to be brought and carried before him with the greatest. At his coronation, three swords of state were brought to be carried before him, as the king of three kingdoms. He said there was yet one wanting. The nobles inquired his meaning; he replied, it was the Bible, adding: "That book is the Sword of the Spirit, and to be preferred before these Words. That ought in all right, to govern us, who use them for the people's safety by God's appointment. Without that sword we are nothing, we can do nothing, we have no power. From that we are what we are this day. From that we receive whatsoever it is that we at this present do assume. He that rules without it is not to be called God's minister, or a king. Under that we ought to live, to fight, to govern the people and to perform all our own affairs. From that alone we obtain all power, virtue, grace, salvation, and whatsoever we need of divine strength." He then commanded a Bible to be brought and carried before him with the greatest.

It was in Edward's reign that the prayer book, for which Cranmer was largely responsible, emerged, but it was not until Elizabeth's reign that it made its final triumph. Grammar Schools "for the finding of poor men's sons to exercise the office of salvation" were founded by Edward after he had heard Cranmer preach on such a need. The Protector, Somerset, who helped the young king in his great task of government, built what we today know as Somerset House, Strand, in order that the land would not be used for this purpose of schools, for he had no love for the progress of the subject people.

Edward's reign was as short as it was good. He entered into a decline and died on July 6th, 1553, having reigned only six years. Just before his death he uttered this prayer:

Edward's prayer in death. "Lord, I commit my spirit to Thee. O Lord, Thou knowest how happy it were for me to be with Thee, yet for the sake of Thy chosen, send me life and health, that I may truly serve Thee. O Lord God, bless Thy people, and save Thine inheritance. O Lord God, save Thy chosen people of England. O Lord God, defend this realm from Papistry; and maintain Thy true religion, that I and my people may praise Thy holy Name for Thy Son Jesus Christ's sake."

Let us in our daily prayers also pray as this young king prayed: "O my Lord God, defend this realm from Papistry."

Questions Can you answer the following?
  1. To what Old Testament character has Edward VI been likened?
  2. Name the Archbishop who among others was responsible for the young King's tuition.
  3. Give an illustration of his piety.

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