Democracy in the Balance

I trace my spiritual lineage back to a radical Baptist in England named Thomas Helwys who believed that God,

I trace my spiritual lineage back to a radical Baptist in England named Thomas Helwys who believed that God, and not the King, was Lord of conscience. In 1612 Roman Catholics were the embattled target of the Crown and Thomas Helwys, the Baptist, came to their defense with the first tract in English demanding full religious liberty. Here's what he said:

"Our Lord the King has no more power over their [Catholic] consciences than ours, and that is none at all. …For men's religion is betwixt God and themselves; the King shall not answer it; neither may the King be judge betwixt God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatever. It appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure."

The king was the good King James I - yes, that King James, as in the King James Bible. Challenges to his authority did not cause his head to rest easily on his pillow, so James had Thomas Helwys thrown into prison, where he died.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2004
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