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"the honour of the English nation;" a compliment, which from the literary celebrity of the bestower, he is said to have prized above all other marks of consideration.
But his language is little deserving of commendation. It has been observed, that it is a mixture of all that is bad, as well as good, in the Latin language. A still worse fault is, that his method is often perplexed and obscure. Yet his writings are replete with erudition and rational observation; circumstances which stamp a value upon them, which the direct opposites of the defects mentioned, unaccompanied by real information, could never have bestowed. Bacon had so high an opinion of Selden, that he desired by his will, his advice should be taken respecting the publication or suppression of his own MS. treatises.
I HAVE placed James in the rear of the wor thies which honoured his reign, not precisely (as Hume states it) because that is his place when considered as an author; but because I happened not to get his article in time to come first.
The English works of James I. were published in 1616, folio, by James, bishop of Winton, and dean of his majesty's Chapel Royal. The several pieces contained in the volume are: 1. A Paraphrase upon the Revelation.
2. Two Meditations: the first upon the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th verses of the 20th chap. of the Revelation: the second upon the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th verses of the 15th chap. of the first book of the Chronicles.
4. Basilicon Doron.-This is said to have been the work by which James gained the most reputation. It is addressed to his son Henry, and contains instructions to him, relative to the subject of government; in the theory of which, his majesty appears not to have been ignorant.
5. The true Law of free Monarchies; or the reciprocal and mutual Duty betwixt a free King, and his natural Subjects.
His majesty in his exordium to this work, very properly makes the following frank acknowledgment.
I have chosen (says he) only to set down in this short treatise, the true grounds of the mutual duty and allegiance betwixt a free and absolute monarch and his people: not to trouble your patience with answering the contrary propositions, which some have not been ashamed to set down in writ, to the poisoning of infinite number of simple souls, and their own perpetual and well-deserved infamy; for by answering them, I could not have eschewed whiles to pick and bite well saltly their persons; which would rather have bred contentiousness among the readers (as they had liked or misliked) than sound instruction of the truth: which I protest to
him that is the searcher of all hearts, is the only mark that I shoot at herein.
The plan of the work he states thus:
First then, I will set down the true grounds whereupon I am to build, out of the Scriptures, since monarchy is the true pattern of the divinity, as I have already said. Next, from the fundamental laws of our own kingdom, which nearest must concern us. Thirdly, from the law of nature, by divers similitudes drawn out of the same: and will conclude syne' by answering the most weighty and appearing incommodities that can be objected.
The following passage furnishes "an amusing instance of James's despotical principles.
And now first for the father's part (whose natural love to his children I described in the first part of this my discourse, speaking of the duty that kings owe to their subjects,) consider, I pray you, what duty his children owe to him; and whether upon any pretext whatsoever, it will not be thought monstrous and unnatural to his sons to rise up
A since, afterwards.
against him, to controul him at their appetite; and when they think good, to slay him, or to cut him off, and adopt to themselves any other they please, in his room: or can any pretence of wickedness, or rigour on his part, be a just éxcuse for his children to put hand into him? And although we see by the course of nature, that love useth to descend more than ascend, in case it were true, that the father hated and wronged the children never so much, will any man, endued with the least spunk of reason, think it lawful for them to meet him with the line? Yea, suppose the father were furiously following his sons with a drawn sword, is it lawful for them to turn and strike again, or make any resistance, but by flight? I think surely, if there were no more but the example of brute beasts and unreasonable creatures, it may serve well enough to qualify and prove this my argument. We read often the piety that the storks have to their old and decayed parents; and generally we know, that there are many sorts of beasts and fowls, that with violence and many bloody strokes will beat and banish their young ones from them, how soon they perceive them to be able to fend themselves; but we never read or heard of any resistance on their part, except among the vipers; which proves such persons, as ought to be reasonable creatures, and yet unnaturally follow this example, to be endued with their viperous nature.