King James VI & I
ON THE DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS
Extracts from speech to Parliament,
21 March 1609
ON THE DIVINE RIGHT OF KINGS.
The state of monarchy is the supremest thing upon earth ... Kings are justly called Gods, for that they exercise a manner or resemblance of divine power upon earth. For if you will consider the attributes to God, you shall see how they agree in the person of a king. God has power to create, or destroy, make, or unmake at his pleasure, to give life, or send death, to judge all, and to be judged nor accountable to none: to raise low things, and to make high things low at his pleasure, and to God are both soul and body due. And the like power have Kings; they make and unmake their subjects: they have power of raising, and casting down: of life, and of death: judges over all their subjects, and in all causes, and yet accountable to none but God only.
Now in these our times we are to distinguish between the state of kings in their first original, and between the state of kings and monarchs, that do at this time govern in civil kingdoms ... In the first original of kings, whereof some had their beginning by conquest, and some by election of the people, their wills at that time served for law; Yet how soon kingdoms began to be settled in civility and policy, then did kings set down their minds by laws ... And I am sure to go to my grave with that reputation and comfort, that never king was in all his time more careful to have his laws duly observed, and himself to govern thereafter, than I.
I conclude then this point touching the power of kings, with this axiom of divinity, that as to dispute what God may do, is blasphemy ... so is it sedition in subjects, to dispute what a king may do in the height of his power: But just kings will ever be willing to declare what they will do, if they will not incur the curse of God. I will not be content that my power be disputed upon: but I shall ever be willing to make the reason appear of all my doings, and rule my actions according to my laws ... Therefore all kings that are not tyrants, or perjured, will be glad to bound themselves within the limits of their laws; and they that persuade them the contrary, are vipers, and pests, both against them and the Commonwealth.
of Basilikon Doron
by King James VI & I
God giues not Kings the style of Gods in vaine,
For on his throne his Scepter do they swey:
and as their subjects ought them to obey,
Kings should feare and serve their god again
If then ye would enjoy a happie raigne,
Obserue the Statutes of your Heauenly King;
and from his lawe, make all your Lawes to spring:
Since his Lieutenant heare ye should remaine,
Reward the iust, be steadfast, true, and plaine:
Represse the proud, maintaining ay the right,
Walke alwaies so, as euer in his sight
Who guardes the godly, plaging the prophane,
And so ye shall in princely vertues shine.
Resembling right your mighty King diuine.
* * *
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 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. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (I Peter 2:13, 14, 17)
Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work. (Titus 3:1)
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"Where the word of a king is, there is power," Ecclesiastes 8:4
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