Four hundred years ago the conflict between tyranny and liberty was red hot. Tyranny was well represented by James I and his son Charles I who ruled England from 1603-1645. These kings were facing off with a people armed with the most powerful weapon in history, the English Bible. For a thousand years the Bible had been hidden from the people, made illegal to own and was only written in Latin — until the Geneva Bible was printed in 1560. By the 17th century, thousands of families were reading their own Bibles and discovering its eternal principles of civil and religious liberty. As a result several generations of Englishmen rose up and stood against the tyrannical rule of the Stuart kings.
When King James died in 1625, his son Charles I ascended to the throne with the arrogance of a Roman emperor. He was the quintessential “divine right” monarch. He declared martial law and suspended the rights of the individual. He denied the right of Parliament to set taxes. He imprisoned people without cause or trial. These were all heinous violations of Magna Carta, the greatest English charter of liberty. Charles’ armed agents were sent throughout England demanding exorbiant taxes that gutted the estates of wealthy Englishman. If the taxpayer declined he was arrested and sent to the dungeons of London. There the king’s inquisitors at his “Star Chamber” in the tower of London used torture techniques to “discover the taxpayer’s assets.”
Perhaps Charles I greatest despotic act was his virulent persecution of all those who disagreed with his unbiblical religious views. He forced his views on every individual in England. In public displays, Charles would cut off the ears and slit the nostrils of liberty loving preachers and writers. He would then impose heavy fines and imprison these innocents in rodent-infested dungeons.
A turning point in public opinion took place on January 30, 1637. Three prisoners were locked down in the pillory in London before a huge crowd. These men included a Puritan minister, a Christian writer and Dr. John Bastwick, a physician. What was their crime? They had written pamphlets disagreeing with the king’s religious views. The sheriff began by branding the men with red hot irons on the forehead with an SL for seditious libel. Then he mutilated them by cutting their ears off and condemned them to a lifetime in the dungeon. Meanwhile Bastwick’s wife approached the pillory. Standing on a stool she kissed her disfigured, bleeding husband and placed his shredded ears in her handkerchief. The people were commanded to mock the prisoners. But instead they treated the men as martyrs, throwing flowers at their feet as they were marched back to the dungeon. The people were awakening.
[Read the rest of the article at the World History Institute.]