A long time ago, in the reign of King Richard I, A.D. 1189, our English Flag had only one cross, because it was only one country, England, and this cross was red on a white ground, called St. George’s Cross, after St. George, the Patron Saint of England. In the time of the Crusades English soldiers wore it on their arm or on their breast when they went to fight, and the Red Cross was the emblem of England for many hundreds of years, and it is kept up today in the Red Cross Society, to help the sick and suffering. But when King James VI of Scotland became James I of England, in 1603, there came a change. The Scotch people had their national flag, called St. Andrew’s Cross, a diagonal cross, white on a blue ground, and the two crosses were put together in 1606 and made the National Flag of England and Scotland, and became the first Union Jack; and so it remained for nearly 200 years. Under this Flag the foundations of our great Indian Empire and of the Dominion of Canada were laid and Gibraltar was captured A.D. 1704.
The flag was called Jack out of respect for King James, which name in French is Jacques, in Latin Jacobus, and in Hebrew Jacob, which appears to be something more than a mere coincidence in view of our claim to be the literal descendants of Jacob.
In 1801, in the reign of George III, Ireland was added to England and with Ireland came its National Flag of St. Patrick—a red diagonal cross on a white ground; and then the three crosses were blended together and became our present “Union Jack,” which signifies the union of England, Scotland. and Ireland in one as Christian countries under the blessings of the Cross of the New Covenant, the Cross of Calvary being in the centre.
Jacob said, when blessing Joseph’s sons, “Let my name be named on them” (Gen. 48:16). The name of Israel ( 1 Kings 12: 24-28) was given later on to the Ten Tribes under the rule of Ephraim, and the name Jacob, or Jack, is attached to the flag of his descendants, who have grown into a “multitude in the midst of the earth to-day.
The Union Jack Flag stands for Liberty, Equality, and Justice. It is the Flag of Freedom and the Flag of Victory. No man can be sold as a slave under this banner, and it has never been more than temporarily defeated.
[In the author’s time], the flag floated over 2,000 islands of the sea, and more than half of the world’s ships flew under the British Flag. It carried the good news of Salvation to all the world, through Israel’s redemption for the glory of God and the good of all mankind, and the flag still says as plainly as it can speak, “God is Truth and God is Love.”
Cross of St. George
The Cross of St. George for England is the Cross of Calvary, the New Testament Cross, which brings spiritual blessings to all who will come under its power. It is the centre of the Flag, and tells of the blessings of a Salvation and Sanctification through the precious blood of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit within. It also stands for the sign of addition, the adding to of land and territory. The British Empire once covered nearly one-third of the land surface of the world. Psalm 2: 8: “Ask of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”
Cross of St. Andrew
The white diagonal Cross of St. Andrew for Scotland is the Old Testament Cross, the cross of Jacob that he made when he crossed his hands to bless his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:14). The birthright blessing was Joseph’s (I Chron. 5:2), and was passed on by Jacob, acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to Ephraim, Joseph’s youngest son. It brought material prosperity (Gen. 27, 28,& 29), plenty of wealth, food, land, and dominion, which the descendants of Joseph were enjoying at the time of the Dickinson article.
The Scottish Cross is the sign of multiplication, signifying the increase of seed. Jacob said (Gen. 38: 16, margin), “They shall increase as fishes increase.” The British people once doubled their population once in every fifty-six years—quicker than any other nation.
Cross of St. Patrick
The Cross of St. Patrick for Ireland, a red diagonal cross on a white ground, unites the other two, and reminds us of the three Persons in one God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. For these two crosses, the perpendicular and the diagonal, were the old shape of the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet—Aleph ( x ) and Tau (±), two of the names for God in the Old Testament, three times repeated in Isaiah xli, 4 ; xliv, 6 ; and xlviii, 12, “I am the First and the Last.” The diagonal cross also stands for the first letter in the Greek alphabet, for the name of Christ, reminding us of His words in Rev. 1: 8, 17, “I am Alpha and Omega,” the first and the last.
The Union Jack Flag stands for Liberty, Equality, and Justice.
How literally our Flag fulfils Psalm 20: 5, “In the name of our God we will set up our banners”; and in Psalm lx, 4, we read, “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth.” The Flag which bears the name of God hidden in its crosses is saluted by every soldier, sailor, and airman of our country, and reminds us that we are the British or Covenant People of God—first under the Law and now under Grace ; and as it is carried to-day all over the world, it speaks to all : “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
There are lessons we may learn from our Flag: First. To value the privileges and blessings we enjoy through being called to be a Christian people. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Second. That all our blessings come to us through the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died on the Cross to save us from the power of sin as well as from the penalty of sin. Have we, each one who reads this, come to Him to be saved and sanctified? Third. Our Flag teaches us the character of God, “He is a God of Truth . . . just and right is He” (Deut. xxxii, 4), and bids us “Fear God, honour the King, love one another.”
The Three Colours and their meaning:
RED. WHITE. BLUE
These three colours were used in the Tabernacle for the curtains (Exod. 26:4).
Red. the colour of blood, signifies Justice or Judgment, and reminds us of the life laid down of the Son of God. “Without shedding of blood is no remission (of sins)” (Heb. 9:22). “Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The Cross of Christ speaks to us of death and of life : “Dead unto sin and alive unto God” (Rom. 6: 11). “That they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5: 15).
White signifies Purity or Holiness: The colour of snow (Ps. 40: 7 ; Isaiah 1:18). The work of the Holy Spirit is to make vs holy. God calls His people to be a holy people. He says, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” It comes four times over in Leviticus, 20: 7 21: 8.
Blue, the colour of the sky, signifies Love. The Home of God, and our home when washed in the blood of Christ and sanctified by His Holy Spirit.
So we see that the three crosses and the three colours speak to us of the Trinity; Red, the Son. White, the HOLY SPIRIT. Blue; the FATHER. Three Persons, but one GOD.
While the Old Testament Cross shows us the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises that He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to their descendants, the English-speaking people of to-day, the Cross of Calvary, the New Testament Cross, shows us the love of God, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit: the Father in giving His Son, the Son in giving Himself, the Holy Spirit in bringing us to a knowledge of it through causing it to be written in His Word and given to us.
How grateful our hearts should be to God as we look at these crosses, and how we should thank Him again and again for such a wonderful birthright He has given to us—His very own Chosen People, chosen to be blessed and to be made a blessing.
Editor’s Comment: Once upon a time, the British Empire stood unchallenged and Britain was deserving of the title “Great Britain.” Wars, treachery of some of its modern leaders and Jacob’s deception of his brother Esau that led God to grant Esau the Dominion at the end of the age; these things led to the demise of greatness. Yet, Britain is still under the protection of the Lord God Almighty and this is evidenced by the power of their flag, “The Union Jack.” We should review its greatness, in light of the meaning of its name, the three crosses and the colours it possesses. M. Dickinson wrote this article in Britain’s heyday and it will be educational for the younger readers to understand what it was like before the sickness of today took hold.