Considering the relationship between prophets and the powers, including Jesus and Pilate in this weeks lectionary text from John 18-19, our Call to Worship for Christ the King Sunday celebrated the 400th Anniversary of a document written by one of the founders of our Baptist movement,Thomas Helwys to King James I in 1612.
A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity, includes a critique and apocalyptic interpretation of the Papacy as well as criticisms of Brownism and Puritanism, and is possibly the first ever English book defending the principle of religious liberty. For Helwys, religious liberty was a right for everyone, even for those he disagreed with.
“If the Kings people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all humane lawes made by the King, our Lord the King can require no more: for men’s religion to God is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer for it, neither may the King be judge between God and man.”
For his critique, King James had Helwys thrown into Newgate Prison, where he was also associated with a protest document about conditions (image below). He died imprisoned in 1616 at about the age of forty. Helwys’ presentation copy of A Short Declaration of the Mistery of Iniquity is still preserved in the Bodleian Library.