Hath there not been a sharp contention between God and this nation concerning this thing?"
– Isaac Pennington the Younger, 1659.
God's great Promise
There are many passages in the Bible which promise material success and prosperity as blessings for faithfulness to God's spiritual laws. One of the most specific descriptions of the conditions of this promise was made by God to Joshua as leader of the children of Israel after the death of Moses:
"This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night; that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." (Joshua 1:8)
Likewise David, before his death, charged his son Solomon:
"And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself […]." (I Kings 2:3)
In Psalm 19:7-11 we read again that in the keeping of the "law", the "testimony", the "statutes", the "commandment", the "fear" and the "judgments" of the LORD "[…] there is great reward".
This wonderful promise is repeated in more general terms throughout the Scriptures, including the oft quoted verses: "Them that honour me I will honour" (I Samuel 2:30); "Righteousness exalteth a nation" (Prov. 14:34); "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD" (Ps. 33:12). In the New Testament Paul, while stressing that salvation is by grace, through faith and not of works (Eph. 2:8-9), still mentions the temporal benefits of obeying the law (Eph. 6:3); and since faith without works is dead (James 2:20) Christ Himself said that He had not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it (Matt. 5:17), and underlined its more than temporal importance: "[…] if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matt. 19:17)
Britannia: the Fulfilment
A little souvenir booklet entitled The Royal Way was published by the Lord's Day Observance Society to commemorate the Jubilee of King George V on May 6, 1935. Inside its back cover is a picture of Britannia holding an open Bible on which is written: "HIS WORD – HIS DAY". Two captions read: "Lest we forget!" and "Britannia reminds us of the source of Britain's Greatness".
The booklet quotes the following sentence from a message read by the King at a meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1911, the year after his coronation: "The English Bible is the first of national treasures, and in its spiritual significance the most valuable thing that this world affords."
The connection between Britannia and the Bible – the fact that Britannia is depicted proclaiming Biblical Truth – is of great historical significance. The Britain of those days was a nation which not only dutifully revered the Bible and obeyed the "royal law", as it is called in James 2:8, but actively promulgated it to others. Britain sought to live by God's commandments and served as a Christian model for other nations to emulate.
In accordance with God' great promise, the result of Britain's obedience to Divine Law, symbolised in this image of Britannia proclaiming the Truth of God's Word, was her unmatched national greatness as she reached the zenith of her power in that Jubilee year. The far-flung British Empire, three times as large as the Continent of Europe and covering 14,000,000 sq. miles, had seen no parallel in ancient times and has seen none since. Britannia "ruled the waves". Moreover, in addition to being the ruler of that third of the world which the maps traditionally coloured in pink, Britain's contribution to human progress in the sciences, the arts, political emancipation and missionary enterprise made her the pioneer of global civilisation.
Such greatness defies any materialistic explanation and indicates that God still does bless nations who obey Him, as of old; and so it was that in this little booklet of 1935 H.H. Martin of the Bible Society felt justified to write: "Britain's greatness, we believe, is due to God's favour. It is a sign of His faithfulness."
History: the Proof
There is a consistency in our history which justifies this belief beyond doubt. To understand it, the history of Britain needs to be recognised in its true light as predominantly a struggle for freedom and independence from the Papacy and its persecution of the Bible and Bible believers.
After Pope Leo I had claimed dominion over all Churches as a 'divine right' at the Council of Ephesus in 449, the arrogance of the Popes increased until they pretended to hold 'divine' authority over the State as well. Kings and Emperors were crowned, deposed and degraded at the pleasure of these corrupt 'Vicars of Christ'. Hordes of priests, monks and nuns swarmed the country to keep the people in subjection, extorting taxes for the enrichment of Rome, peddling indulgences, and deluding the simple-minded with images, relics, pilgrimages, miracles, masses and canonisation of 'saints'.
Our nation's greatness began in the reign of King Alfred the Great (871-899), the first of our God-fearing Monarchs. Alfred raised the minds of his people from this grovelling, sensuous superstition and returned them to the heavenly streams of light and life once preached by the Apostles, making England the home of liberties and learned men. He not only passed some of the earliest Lord's Day observance laws, but prefixed the Ten Commandments, God's rules for mankind, to his famous Code so that they became enshrined upon the Statute Book of the Realm. Significantly, they remain there today as a reminder of the origin of Britain's greatness and a symbol of her independence from a system that tramples on the Bible.
It is no mere chance that from that time, when God's commandments were nationally reverenced, Britain's prosperity rose as she faithfully abode by the principles taught in the Bible. During those Dark Ages, when, as Wylie said, "the noon day of the Papacy was the midnight of the world", William I refused to do homage to the Pope. When King John challenged the Pope's authority in England, he was called to Rome where his crown was ignominiously kicked from his head by the Pope's Legate in 1213. God rewarded his rejection of Popery two years later with the Magna Carta which secured the freedom of the English Church from Rome and was an early foreshadowing of the Reformation.
Reformation: the Secret of England's Greatness
King Alfred, in the ninth century, had translated portions of the New Testament into English, but it was John Wycliffe, the "Morning Star of the Reformation", who first produced an English translation of the whole Bible in the sixteenth. Britain's role in both disseminating and constitutionally appropriating the Word of God has been recognised by many. Dr. Wylie wrote:
"The real secret of England's greatness is her permeation, at the very dawn of her history, with the principles of order and liberty by means of the English Bible, and the capacity for freedom thereby created. This has permitted development, by equal stages, of our love for freedom and our submission to law; of our political constitution and our national genius; of our power and our self-control – the two sets of qualities fitting into one another, and growing into a well compacted fabric of political and moral power unexampled on earth. If nowhere else is seen a similar structure, so stable and so lofty, it is because nowhere else has a similar basis been found for it. It was Wycliffe who laid that basis." [Dr. Wylie, quoted in The Protestant Echo, September 1, 1897, p. 99.]
R.P. Blakeney had recognised half a century earlier:
"The Reformation has been the stay, and bulwark, and glory of England. [...] When Britain became Protestant, taking the Word of God for her guide, - when the principles of the Bible regulated all her actions and legislation, - when she acknowledged it as her first duty and highest privilege, as a nation, to advance the cause of Christ, and framed her laws and institutions to that end only, - when she had cast off all connexion with Popery, declaring it illegal even to enter into diplomatic relations with Rome, [...] she enjoyed the favour of Heaven, and became great; her people rose in character and intelligence, and manliness and honesty distinguished their conduct. Her arms prevailed; and the British constitution and British laws – the best that ever existed – were the admiration and praise of all the earth." [R.P. Blakeney: Popery in its Social Aspect, Toronto, 1854, pp. 1 & 286f.]
During the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) this country broke away from the Church of Rome and became a Protestant, Bible-loving nation.
Protestantism: a Providential System
A brief glance at the history of England since the Reformation is enough to show how closely the providential system of Biblical Protestantism has been exemplified. Every reign which has attempted to bring back Popery, or even to give it a share of power which could in any degree prejudice Protestantism, has been marked by signal misfortune.
The Papist Queen Mary Tudor (1516-1558) plotted the resubmission of England to Rome, repealed the statutes abolishing Papal jurisdiction and caused the merciless burning of 300 Protestants at the stake, among them Latimer and Ridley. The supreme achievements of her reign were a dilapidated kingdom, the nation worn out by disasters and debt, the national arms disgraced, and nothing in vigour but Popery and the remembrance of blood shed in the cause of Rome.
Early in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) this country became a Protestant country by law. God set His seal on His will for us to be and remain a Protestant country by intervening in our history to bring about the defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588). Elizabeth's cause was Protestantism, and in that sign she conquered. With God's help she shivered the Spanish sword, paralysed the power of Rome, gave freedom to the Dutch and fought the battle of the French Protestants. Every eye of religious suffering was fixed upon this magnanimous woman – and it was she who established Protestantism. Like the Jewish King, she found the Ark of God without a shelter, built for it the noblest temple in the world and consecrated her country into its temple before dying in the fullness of years and honours as the great Queen of Protestantism throughout the nations.
It cannot be mere chance that immediately after Elizabeth's death it fell to Protestant Britain to spread the Gospel worldwide through the King James (or 'Authorised') Version of the Bible (1611). This translation, occasioned by Puritan demands for reform in the Anglican Church, became the crowning glory of the Protestant Reformation in Britain and God's eventual mighty answer to the dying cry of William Tyndale, captured and burned in 1535 by Belgian Papists for having dared to translate the New Testament: "Lord, open the King of England's eyes!" For almost 400 years, the King James Version has been our precious heritage, and its inspired accuracy and majesty of style have been the primary source of knowledge of salvation for countless readers. As the translators indicate in its Epistle Dedicatory, King James I of England himself (1603-1625) was "the principal Author and Mover" of the work, and they express their contentment at his great Christian zeal as manifested in his "writing in defence of the Truth", his "religious and learned discourse", his "frequenting the house of God" and his "caring for the Church".
Charles I (1629-1640) could thus ascend the prosperous throne of a vigorous and peaceful England; but he betrayed the sacred post of Protestantism. He had formed a Popish alliance with the free knowledge that it established a Popish dynasty. If not a friend to Popery, he was madly regardless of its hazards to the Constitution. Ill fortune suddenly gathered upon him – distracted councils, popular feuds, the loss of national respect – finally deepening into civil war and bloodshed as the punishment of his betrayal of Protestantism.
Under Cromwell's iron reign (1653-1658), England was lifted on her feet as if by a miracle. All her battles were victories; France and Spain bowed down to her, and a word from the Protector was sufficient to stop the Pope and his servants – the King of France and the Duke of Savoy – from torturing the saints of God in the Piedmontese valleys. England became the most conspicuous power in Europe, even greater than under Elizabeth, growing year by year in opulence, public knowledge and foreign renown, until Cromwell could almost realise the splendid improbability that before he died he would "make the name of an Englishman as much feared and honoured as ever was that of an ancient Roman".
Charles II (1660-1685) came to a prosperous throne, the fruit of the vigour of the Puritan Protectorate; but Charles was a Roman Catholic who attempted to introduce his religion (the Restoration of 1660-1667). Violence and persecution forced some Protestants to flee to the American Colonies, while others, including John Bunyan (of Pilgrim's Progress fame) were imprisoned. The star of England was instantly darkened; the country and the King alike became the scorn of foreign courts; the national honour was scandalised by mercenary subservience to France; the national arms were humiliated by a disastrous war with Holland; and the capital, London, was swept by plague and fire.
James II (1685-1688) still more openly violated the national trust. He publicly became a Roman Catholic and sought to uproot Protestantism and convert England to Popery by force; but God in His providence cast the Stuarts out – they and their dynasty disappeared for ever. That proud line of kings was sentenced to wither down into a sole and solitary monk living on the alms of England as a stipendiary and an exile.
Still God in His mercy did not cast us away. When William III (1689-1702) was called to the Throne, he found it as a Popish reign had always left it – full of difficulties and ferment: fierce disturbance in Scotland; open war in Ireland; abroad, the French King domineering over Europe, and threatening invasion. In the scale of nations England was nothing. The principle of William's reign was, however, the renewal of Protestantism. He fought and legislated for it throughout his life, and it was to him as it had been to all before him – strength and honour and victory. He silenced English faction; he crushed the Irish war; he defied the colossal strength of France on its own shore; and the champion of Protestantism he held his ground against the Popish persecutor. England rose to the highest military fame. In a train of immortal victories she defended Protestantism throughout Europe, drove the enemy to his palace gates, and broke the power of France for a hundred years. He achieved the promise written on his banner when he had marched from Torbay to London, he carried a banner with the words: "The Protestant religion and the liberties of England I will maintain."
As if to consolidate the great victory of Protestantism at the end of the seventeenth century, God intervened once more in our history. He gave us a Marlborough and a Sarah Churchill and the Protestant Princess (later Queen) Anne, who together did much to cause Parliament to pass the Act of Settlement (1701). This excluded a Roman Catholic from the Throne and vested the succession in the Protestant Royal House of Hanover after the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). God in His pleasure sent us the blessing of the Great Awakening with Whitefield and Wesley, restoring the Church to life and activity. Protestantism carried into the hearts of the people a fresh spirit of moral zeal, while it purified our literature and our manners, reformed our prisons, and penal laws, abolished the slave trade, and gave the first impetus to popular education. The fruits of this period are recorded in Westminster Abbey: "Divine Providence exalted Great Britain to an height of prosperity and glory unknown to any former age."
Protestantism: Liberty and Greatness
Popery launched a new onslaught against our Protestant liberties as soon as Napoléon re-established it in France by signing a Concordat with the Vatican in 1801. The aim of the resulting gigantic project of the 'Continental System' was to strike at the booming trade of England by closing the ports of Europe against her ships. With the concurrence of the Pope, a massive invasion of England was planned by one hundred thousand men who amassed at Boulogne with a host of boats; but God intervened. Before the manoeuvre could be completed, the enemy was wiped out by Admiral Lord Nelson off Cape Trafalgar (1805), where the British fleet of 27 ships, not one of which was lost, routed the combined fleets of France and Spain. At Waterloo (1810) the Duke of Wellington and his Protestant Prussian ally Blücher inflicted another total and crushing defeat on the Romanist marauder.
The very first act of Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) was to bow before God and seek His help. Great prosperity attended the first sixty years of her reign. She protested against the Papal aggression of Wiseman, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of Westminster. While concurring in the principle of the free exercise of all religions, she determined "to uphold the rights of my Crown and the independence of my people against all aggressions and encroachments of a foreign power"; but when she followed her Bishops, Archbishops and more especially her Prime Ministers in beginning to show favour towards Rome and the High Anglican apostasy, Rome came in like a flood; the history of Victoria's reign became, despite its glory, a history of Papal claims and Parliamentary concessions to them, made to satisfy Rome' greed, which was no more assuaged than it was before the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829.
In 1900 even Rome was forced to admit the relationship between England's greatness and Protestantism. The Catholic Times of August 10 of that year conceded:
"Wound up and interwoven with […] the past three hundred years is the record of unparalleled and unceasing commercial success. Her [England's] fleet has swept the waters; her armies have pushed forward her standard. Frequently they have been checked, oftentimes they have been vanquished, but in the main victory has followed their flag, from Dunkirk [i.e. 1694-95] to Corunna, from Blenheim to Waterloo. She has added to her possessions, increased her colonies, widened her influence, opened her ports, sent her merchantmen to every sea, placed her merchandise on every mart. And this under the rule of Protestant sovereigns, under the guidance of Protestant leaders, under the government of Protestant Parliaments, has so associated the Protestant idea with England's success that in the minds of men one is linked to the other as cause and effect."
That such divine providence continued into the twentieth century is affirmed by Sir Winston Churchill, who still retained the wisdom of King Alfred and declared God's commandments a national blessing, describing Sunday as "a Divine and priceless institution" and "the birthright of every British subject". In his History of the English-Speaking Peoples our greatest national leader records how Britain was guided by the Hand of Almighty God all down the years of her history, and not least during the two World Wars. David Gardner describes in volume 2 of his book The Trumpet sounds for Britain (Altrincham, 1985) the extraordinary interventions which brought us through to victory in 1918, and mentions at least twelve miracles of deliverance, against all odds, which took place between 1939 and 1945, seven of which came as direct answers to National Days of Prayer called by King George VI. After announcing victory in the House of Commons on May 8, 1945, Churchill appropriately moved:
"That this House do now attend at the Church of St. Margaret, Westminster, to give humble and reverent thanks to Almighty God for our deliverance from the threat of German domination."
Britain was restored in God's favour and celebrated the Festival of Britain in 1953.
The EU: Romanism in Respectable Garb
When Britain signed the Treaty of Rome, she subscribed to a second Counter-Reformation in economic disguise; she took a first constitutional step aside from her Biblical Protestant heritage and began an association with a traditional historical enemy which could prove to be her undoing if she does not wake up and act in time. Her increasing decline since joining the Roman Catholic European Union, as well as her ever increasing tolerance of Popery through the Ecumenical Movement, has reduced her in the course of the last sixty years from the status of a great world power to that of imminently becoming what she was in the days of the Caesars – a mere Province of the Roman Empire resurrected as a Vatican-inspired and Rome-oriented European 'Superstate'. The defection of the leaders of nominally Protestant Churches to apostate ecumenism, together with membership of the European Union, is resulting in what Continental armies failed to achieve for centuries – the destruction of British sovereignty and the ruin of British industry. One by one our industries have been assailed – fishing, pork, beef and shipbuilding – while the 'rot from Brussels' has progressively overridden our Parliamentary legislation. Hundreds of years of tradition have been sacrificed by the House of Lords reform, and, even more significantly, the very Act of Succession, which excludes Roman Catholics from the Throne, is at present under attack.
Since Queen Elizabeth II's visit to the Vatican (1980) and the Pope's visit to Britain and meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury (1982), this country was struck by a succession of Royal disasters. As 1992 drew to a close, Queen Elizabeth II declared it had been an annus horribilis (horrible year): fire had destroyed part of Windsor Castle; there was speculation about the marriage between Princess Diana and Prince Charles; Lady Sarah Ferguson had been photographed cavorting with a Texan "financial adviser" after her separation from Prince Andrew. The fairytale wedding of Charles and Diana (1981) ended not only in separation but in the tragic death of the Princess (1997). Charles declared his new role as the defender of all faiths, paving the way for his possible marriage to Camilla Parker-Bowles and a Roman Catholic Queen on the British Throne. An extreme form of Scottish devolution could facilitate the return of that land of John Knox to the dark days of Bloody Mary. Blair's pronouncement in Italy that he is "close to Catholicism" explains his sympathies with the goals of Irish Republicanism, and Trimble's flirting with these enemies of Protestantism has brought Ulster to the brink of political disaster.
The Pattern: Punishment and Deliverance
These events are consistent with the fact that God's great promise of blessings for obedience was accompanied by a warning that a curse would befall His people "[…] if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known" (Deut. 11:28).
Today the Mother of Parliaments has reversed the Laws of God appended to the Statute Book of the Realm by King Alfred. Laws legalising abortion, homosexuality, the defiling of the Sabbath and the tolerance of idolatry, the abolition of capital punishment, the freeing of terrorist murderers – in short, the legalising of sin – make it plain that God is going to require all that blood at the hands of the nation unless there is national repentance.
There is, throughout British history, a pattern of disobedience and resulting punishment which has been described very succinctly by General Sir Walter Walker, KCB, CBE, DSO, former Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces Northern Europe, in his Introduction to Volume 3 of David Gardner's book The Trumpet Sounds for Britain (Altrincham, 1985):
"We need to realise that there is a kind of judgment which God does not visit upon a country suddenly […]. It is something which does not come all at once […], a kind of judgment which God first prepares, and then announces that it is coming. He then allows it to develop gradually, and during that time He is repeatedly issuing warnings and urgent calls to repentance. Then, if the nation which has incurred His wrath and upon which He is bringing that judgment still fails to repent and turn back to Him, despite His repeated warnings, He suddenly causes judgment to fall. Then the consequences are too terrible to relate."
History has vindicated the view that Britain's abandonment of God's Law has largely been the fruit of her rapprochement with the Church of Rome, which is the one instrument that has consistently attempted to destroy the principles of Biblical Protestantism and with it Britain's national greatness and independence. The Roman Church now presents a fair front to world covering her record of horrible cruelties with false apologies. She has clothed herself in Christ-like garments; but she is intrinsically unchanged. Every principle of Popery that existed in past ages still exists today. The doctrines devised in the darkest ages are still held. Let no one be deceived: the Popery that ecumenical Protestants are so ready to honour is the same as that which ruled the world in the days of the Reformation, when men of the Lord stood up at the peril of their lives, to expose the iniquity of the Romanist system. Rome today possesses the same pride and arrogant assumption that lorded her over kings and princes, and falsely claimed the prerogatives of Jesus Christ. Her spirit is no less cruel and despotic now that when she crushed human liberty and slew the saints of the God.
Those who advocate unity with her today, from the dupes of ecumenism to the traitors of the Lutheran World Federation, are dismantling all that God brought about through the Reformation. The instigators of ecumenism knew full well that they could never achieve their kind of so-called 'Christian unity' whilst Biblical truth stood in the way. Hence they first had to become apostate. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Rom.1:22) Their punishment will be a terrible one.
Those who continue to stand for God's Truth, however, can take heart. When Elijah stood upon Mount Carmel with the prophets raging round, and all the people against him, and those in high places in opposition to the truth that he was commissioned to deliver, in a few moments, by the wonderful power of God, the blessing was given, and a change was effected. God has blessed His Truth in all ages and those who faithfully proclaim it, and He is not going to desert it now.
"Take heed what thou doest, lest He, who hath the power over all, bring thee under, and set them on the top.
Seek righteousness, seek the good of all, seek true reformation, and the Lord will bless thee: but if thou think to obtain the setting up of old forms, and ways of worship and government, or any new ones like to the old, under which the righteous cannot but groan (though the wicked and loose spirit. may rejoice), thou wilt be deceived, and thy mistake may prove very dangerous and bitter to thee."
Isaac Pennington the Younger, 1659.
What earthly name to interrogatories
Can task the free breath of a sacred king?
Thou canst not, Cardinal, devise a name
So slight, unworthy, and ridiculous,
To charge me to an answer, as the Pope.
Tell him this tale, and from the mouth of England.
Add thus much more, that no Italian priest
Shall tithe or toll in our dominions;
But as we under heaven are supreme head,
So, under Him that great supremacy,
Where we do reign we will alone uphold,
Without th' assistance of a mortal hand.
So tell the Pope, all reverence set apart
To him and his usurp'd authority.
Though you and all the kings of Christendom
Are led so grossly by this meddling priest,
Dreading the curse that money may buy out,
And by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust,
Purchase corrupted pardon of a man,
Who in that sale sells pardon from himself-
Though you and all the rest, so grossly led,
This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish;
Yet I alone, alone do me oppose
Against the Pope, and count his friends my foes.
William Shakespeare: King John, Act III, Scene 1