A Few Remarks by the Editor
1. In formatting Suarez' Defensio for presentation in The Philological Museum, I had the opportunity of, so to speak, looking over Prof. Simpson's shoulder as he worked and could not help but have certain reactions to this treatise, and I take this opportunity to share them with the reader, although I strongly suspect that my views do not coincide with those of Prof. Simpson. In my view, Suarez’ almost stupefying prolixity and dryasdust scholasticism — characteristics he freely admits at V.16.13 and VI.3.9 respectively — ought not detract from the fascination of the debate between James and Suarez, for the object of their contention is nothing less than the soul of Europe. For all the theological language in which it is couched, James’ A Premonition to all Christian Monarches, Free Princes and States is essentially a political document (and as such is very properly included by Charles Howard McIlwain in his The Political Works of James I, Cambridge U. S. A. - London, 1918).
2. Suarez provides a comprehensive presentation of the Catholic position, or more accurately of the Jesuit position as it existed in his day. Many of his attacks on James hit home — as a professional theologian he often manage to show James up as a clumsy amateur. Nevertheless, as someone brought up in the Anglican tradition, I cannot help remarking that there are some points in the Defensio where Suarez' case rests on slippery ground because of his evidently imperfect familiarity with the Church of England. The first of these has to do with his claim in Book I that, because the Church of England does not partake of the Apostolic Succession, it is not informed and guided by the Holy Spirit He does not acknowledge or confront the Anglican argument is that its prelates do indeed belong to the Apostolic Succession, since, with the single exception of John Fisher Bishop of Rochester, all of Henry VIII's bishops (originally consecrated as members of the Roman Catholic Church) swore allegience to his supremacy as Head of the Church, and so the Anglican position is that all their subsequent bishops can be traced back to these original ones in an unbroken line. (Likewise, Suarez does not consider the Apostolic Succession within the Eastern Orthodox Church, and permits himself the facile assumption that this is the exclusive monopoly of Roman Catholicism).
In the same Book Suarez complains of Protestant doctrinal anarchy, in which every man is free to concoct his own theological beliefs and scriptural interpretations, and claims or at least strongly insinuates that Anglicanism participates in this chaos. This manages to overlook an essential feature of the Anglican faith, the existence of the Thirty-Nine Articles, which do serve to impose a certain degree of doctrinal uniformity and intellectual discipline within the Anglican Church. He likewise does not appear to have appreciated that, with its two metropolitans (the Archbishops of Canterbury and York) and its authoritarian episcopal hierarchy, from a structural point of view the Church of England resembled his own Church considerably more than it did the democratically-organized Scottish Kirk (after the elimination of the Scottish bishops) and Protestant denominations of continental Europe. Rather, he lumps together Anglicanism with Lutheranism and Calvinism as undifferentiated parts of a single heresy.
But it seems to me the greatest weakness of Suarez’ case has to do with the different views of kingship held by him and by James. Suarez’ constant theme throughout the Defensio is that Church and the Papacy, as authorized by Christ Himself, enjoys a monopoly over spiritual matters, whereas kingship is a purely secular office, and, inasmuch as spiritual considerations always trump secular ones, the authority of the Church and the Papacy must inevitably take precedence over the claims of the crown. The linchpin of James’ entire case, however, was that kingship was not a merely secular institution. Very much to the contrary, he espoused the view, inherited from his Tudor predecessors, that an anointed and sanctified king enjoys a special relationship with God, and, being His earthly representative, is directly answerable to Him and to Him alone. Probably the clearest enunciation of this view, which we usually summarize by the phrase “the divine right of kings,” is set forth in the tenth homily in the collection entitled Certain Sermons Appointed to Be Read in Churches (largely written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, originally published in 1547 during the reign of Edward VI, and reprinted under Elizabeth), entitled “An exhortation to obedience,” which ought to be required reading for any student of Anglican political thinking.
When I first rather casually read the Defensio, it seemed to me that Suarez did not confront James’ theory of kingship at all. On more careful inspection, it dawned on me the first three chapters of Book III are meant to dispose of this issue, but one nevertheless feels that limiting this discussion to a mere three chapters has the effect of marginalizing the subject. Here Suarez’ position is, of course, that kingship is entirely secular and he argues that a king is created, not by God, but rather by the people (although he does not consider the logical consequence that had already been drawn by George Buchanan in his 1579 De Iure Regni Apud Scotos Dialogus, that a king is therefore answerable to his people, and may be deposed by them for just cause). But still, considering the centrality of his idea of kingship for James’ theological and political thinking, Suarez could and should have given it equal prominence in his rebuttal. He could, for example, have conducted a detailed examination of the role of kingship in the Old Testament. It might have struck a contemporary reader as unconvincing simply to enunciate the unsupported claim that kings are created by their peoples, inasmuch as in I Samuel God Himself, not the people of Israel, selects Saul as the first King of Israel. And, to mention another subject left unconsidered in the Defensio, Suarez might also have provided a secularizing interpretation of the custom of anointing kings during coronation rituals, since anointment might otherwise be thought to have some ghostly significance.