The events of the mid-1600s recalled the events of nearly a century earlier when the first Covenant had been created. Although Scotland was practically entirely Catholic, a number of adherents of the Reformation that had started in Europe began to preach their own points of religious views throughout the countryside. John Wycliffe found some followers in the southwest of Scotland as early as 1528. George Wishart converted many Catholics to the Reformed Faith through the 1540s before being martyred in 1546. John Knox traveled and preached throughout Scotland for a period of over ten years, beginning in 1547.

  It was during Knox’s crusade that a group of Scottish nobles known as the Lords of the Congregation drew up the First Covenant of 1557. The Lords of the Congregation were led by the Earls of Argyll and Morton. The Lords of the Congregation pledged themselves to establish a national church on the Reformed model. In their words they planned to “establish the most blessed word of God” and to “forsake and renounce the congregation of Satan”.(2.13) The Lords of the Congregation won many supporters for the First Covenant because, among other things, the Covenant called for the public exposition of the Scriptures and the holding of relligious services in the vernacular rather than in Latin. Although it might not seem so extraordinary in our day and age, it must be remembered that the Catholic Church feared that should the common people understand the Word of God, the important role of the Pope (and the many Bishops and lesser prelates) as the intercessor between man and God would be compromised. Unfortunately, the First Covenant did not induce many members of the Parliament or the clergy to convert.

  Then in 1580 the Protestant church leaders drew up and signed a Covenant by which they pledged their support for the Reformed Faith, known as presbyterianism. The Royalist supporters in Parliament, in turn, succeeded in passing an Act four years later, which stipulated that any assembly that took place without the King’s consent would be unlawful. Twelve years passed. Then, in 1596, the Presbyterians again made a call for supporters by reintroducing the National Covenant of 1580. They gained enough support to merit holding a General Assembly at Edinburgh. But it would be the last spark of Presbyterian political gusto until the introduction of the new Prayer Book in 1637.

  The opponents to the new Prayer Book formed an organization known as The Tables during the autumn and winter of 1637/38. (The name, Tables, was the name used alternately for ‘committees.’) The Tables included such notables as James Graham, fifth Earl of Montrose; the Earl of Rothes; Archibald Campbell, the eighth Earl of Argyll and Chief of Clan Campbell; the lawyer, Lord Warriston; and the minister, Alexander Henderson of Leuchars. The response of the king was to issue a proclamation calling for the nobles who were opposing the Prayer Book to give themselves up to the authorities. The proclamation was issued in late February, 1638, and it resulted in the expected response of riots and demonstrations. The Tables recalled the Lords of the Congregation and called on the nobility of Scotland to come to Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh. Through 28 February and the 1st and 2nd of March, hundreds of the nobility and gentry made their way to Greyfriars Kirk where, in the graveyard adjacent to the church edifice, they signed a document that had been written up by Lord Warriston, Henderson and a few others.

Greyfriars Kirkyard ~ Used by kind permission of Helen Grant. Url Address:

  Known as the National Covenant(2.14) (see the transcription below), the document proclaimed the marriage of the nation with God. It condemned many Catholic doctrines by incorporating the 1581 Negative Confession and a collection of Acts which had confirmed that document. The Tables did not want to instigate a war against Charles, they simply wanted to express their belief that he had erred somewhat. To that end, the document ended with a pledge to maintain the ‘true religion’ and ‘His Majesty’s authority.’

The National Covenant, Or The Confession Of Faith

        WE all and every one of us under-written, proteƒt, That, after long and due examination of our own conƒciences in matters of true and falƒe religion, we are now thoroughly reƒolved in the truth by the word and Spirit of God: and therefore we believe with our hearts, confeƒs with our mouths, ƒubƒcribe with our hands, and conƒtantly affirm, before God and the whole world, that this only is the true Chriƒtian faith and religion, pleaƒing God, and bringing ƒalvation to man, which now is, by the mercy of God, revealed to the world by the preaching of the bleƒsed evangel; and is received, believed, and defended by many and ƒundry notable kirks and realms, but chiefly by the kirk of Scotland, the King’s Majeƒty, and three eƒtates of this realm, as God’s eternal truth, and only ground of our ƒalvation; as more particularly is expreƒsed in the Confeƒsion of our Faith, eƒtabliƒhed and publickly confirmed by ƒundry acts of Parliaments, and now of a long time hath been openly profeƒsed by the King’s Majeƒty, and whole body of this realm both in burgh and land. To the which Confeƒsion and Form of Religion we willingly agree in our conƒcience in all points, as unto God’s undoubted truth and verity, grounded only upon his written word. And therefore we abhor and deteƒt all contrary religion and doctrine; but chiefly all kind of Papiƒtry in general and particular heads, even as they are now damned and confuted by the word of God and Kirk of Scotland. But, in ƒpecial, we deteƒt and refuƒe the uƒurped authority of that Roman Antichriƒt upon the ƒcriptures of God, upon the kirk, the civil magiƒtrate, and conƒciences of men; all his tyrannous laws made upon indifferent things againƒt our Chriƒtian liberty; his erroneous doctrine againƒt the ƒufficiency of the written word, the perfection of the law, the office of Chriƒt, and his bleƒsed evangel; his corrupted doctrine concerning original ƒin, our natural inability and rebellion to God’s law, our juƒtification by faith only, our imperfect ƒanctification and obedience to the law; the nature, number, and uƒe of the holy ƒacraments; his five baƒtard ƒacraments, with all his rites, ceremonies, and falƒe doctrine, added to the miniƒtration of the true ƒacraments without the word of God; his cruel judgment againƒt infants departing without the ƒacrament; his abƒolute neceƒsity of baptiƒm; his blaƒphemous opinion of tranƒubƒtantiation, or real preƒence of Chriƒt’s body in the elements, and receiving of the ƒame by the wicked, or bodies of men; his diƒpenƒations with ƒolemn oaths, perjuries, and degrees of marriage forbidden in the word; his cruelty againƒt the innocent divorced; his deviliƒh maƒs; his blaƒphemous prieƒthood; his profane ƒacrifice for ƒins of the dead and the quick; his canonization of men; calling upon angels or ƒaints departed, worƒhipping of imagery, relicks, and croƒses; dedicating of kirks, altars, days; vows to creatures; his purgatory, prayers for the dead; praying or ƒpeaking in a ƒtrange language, with his proceƒsions, and blaƒphemous litany, and multitude of advocates or mediators; his manifold orders, auricular confeƒsion; his deƒperate and uncertain repentance; his general and doubtƒome faith; his ƒatiƒfaction of men for their ƒins; his juƒtification by works, opus operatum, works of ƒupererogation, merits, pardons, peregrinations, and ƒtations; his holy water, baptizing of bells, conjuring of ƒpirits, croƒsing, ƒayning, anointing, conjuring, hallowing of God’s good creatures, with the ƒuperƒtitious opinion joined therewith; his worldly monarchy, and wicked hierarchy; his three ƒolemn vows, with all his ƒhavelings of ƒundry ƒorts; his erroneous and bloody decrees made at Trent, with all the ƒubƒcribers or approvers of that cruel and bloody band, conjured againƒt the kirk of God. And finally, we deteƒt all his vain allegories, rites, ƒigns, and traditions brought in the kirk, without or againƒt the word of God, and doctrine of this true reformed kirk; to the which we join ourƒelves willingly, in doctrine, faith, religion, diƒcipline, and uƒe of the holy ƒacraments, as lively members of the ƒame in Chriƒt our head: promiƒing and ƒwearing, by the great name of the LORD our GOD, that we ƒhall continue in the obedience of the doctrine and diƒcipline of this kirk [The Confeƒsion which was ƒubƒcribed at Halyrud-houƒe the 25th of February 1587-8, by the King, Lennox Huntly, the Chancellor, and about 95 other perƒons, hath here added, “Agreeing to the word.” Sir John Maxwell of Pollock hath the original parchment.], and ƒhall defend the ƒame, according to our vocation and power, all the days of our lives; under the pains contained in the law, and danger both of body and ƒoul in the day of God’s fearful judgment.
        And ƒeeing that many are ƒtirred up by Satan, and that Roman Antichriƒt, to promiƒe, ƒwear, ƒubƒcribe, and for a time uƒe the holy ƒacraments in the kirk deceitfully, againƒt their own conƒcience; minding hereby,firƒt, under the external cloak of religion, to corrupt and ƒubvert ƒecretly God’s true religion within the kirk; and afterward, when time may ƒerve, to become open enemies and perƒecutors of the ƒame, under vain hope of the Pope’s diƒpenƒation, deviƒed againƒt the word of God, to his greater confuƒion, and their double condemnation in the day of the Lord Jeƒus: we therefore, willing to take away all ƒuƒpicion of hypocriƒy, and of ƒuch double dealing with God, and his kirk, proteƒt, and call the Searcher of all hearts for witneƒs, that our minds and hearts do fully agree with this our Confeƒsion, promiƒe, oath, and ƒubƒcription: ƒo that we are not moved with any worldly reƒpect, but are perƒuaded only in our conƒcience, through the knowledge and love of God’s true religion imprinted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as we ƒhall anƒwer to him in the day when the ƒecrets of all hearts ƒhall be diƒcloƒed.
        And becauƒe we perceive, that the quietneƒs and ƒtability of our religion and kirk doth depend upon the ƒafety and good behaviour of the King’s Majeƒty, as upon a comfortable inƒtrument of God’s mercy granted to this country, for the maintaining of his kirk, and miniƒtration of juƒtice amongƒt us; we proteƒt and promiƒe with our hearts, under the ƒame oath, hand-writ, and pains, that we ƒhall defend his perƒon and authority with our goods, bodies, and lives, in the defence of Chriƒt, his evangel, liberties of our country, miniƒtration of juƒtice, and puniƒhment of iniquity, againƒt all enemies within this realm or without, as we deƒire our God to be a ƒtrong and merciful defender to us in the day of our death, and coming of our Lord Jeƒus Chriƒt; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory eternally. Amen.
        LIKEAS many Acts of Parliament, not only in general do abrogate, annul, and reƒcind all laws, ƒtatutes, acts, conƒtitutions, canons civil or municipal, with all other ordinances, and practique penalties whatƒoever, made in prejudice of the true religion, and profeƒsors thereof; or of the true kirk, diƒcipline, juriƒdiction, and freedom thereof; or in favours of idolatry and ƒuperƒtition, or of the Papiƒtical kirk: As Act 3, Act 31, Parl. 1; Act 23, Parl. 11; Act 114, Parl. 12 of King James VI., That Papiƒtry and ƒuperƒtition may be utterly ƒuppreƒsed, according to the intention of the Acts of Parliament, repeated in the fifth Act, Parl. 20, King James VI. And to that end they ordain all Papiƒts and Prieƒts to be puniƒhed with manifold civil and eccleƒiaƒtical pains, as adverƒaries to God’s true religion, preached, and by law eƒtabliƒhed, within this realm, Act 24, Parl. 11, King James VI.; as common enemies to all Chriƒtian government, Act 18, Parl. 16, King James VI.; as rebellers and gainƒtanders of our Sovereign Lord’s authority, Act 47, Parl.3, King James VI.; and as idolaters, Act 104, Parl.l7, King James VI. But alƒo in particular, by and attour the Confeƒsion of Faith, do aboliƒh and condemn the Pope’s authority and juriƒdiction out of this land, and ordains the maintainers thereof to be puniƒhed, Act 2, Parl.1; Act 51, Parl.3; Act 106, Parl. 7; Act 114, Parl. 12, King James VI.: do condemn the Pope’s erroneous doctrine, or any other erroneous doctrine repugnant to any of the articles of the true and Chriƒtian religion, publickly preached and by law eƒtabliƒhed in this realm; and ordains the ƒpreaders and makers of books or libels, or letters or writs of that nature, to be puniƒhed, Act 46, Parl. 3; Act 106, Parl. 7; Act 24, Parl. 11, King James VI.: do condemn all baptiƒm conform to the Pope’s kirk, and the idolatry of the maƒs; and ordains all ƒayers, willful hearers, and concealers of the maƒs, the maintainers and reƒetters of the prieƒts, Jeƒuits, trafficking Papiƒts, to be puniƒhed without any exception or reƒtriction, Act 5, Parl. 1; Act 120, Parl. 12; Act 164, Parl. 13; Act 193, Parl. 14; Act 1, Parl. 19; Act 5, Parl. 20, King James VI.: do condemn all erroneous books and writs containing erroneous doctrine againƒt the religion preƒently profeƒsed, or containing ƒuperƒtitious rites and ceremonies Papiƒtical, whereby the people are greatly abuƒed; and ordains the home-bringers of them to be puniƒhed, Act 25, Parl. 11, King James VI.: do condemn the monuments and dregs of bygone idolatry, as going to croƒses, obƒerving the feƒtival days of ƒaints, and ƒuch other ƒuperƒtitious and Papiƒtical rites, to the diƒhonour of God, contempt of true religion, and foƒtering of great error among the people; and ordains the uƒers of them to be puniƒhed for the ƒecond fault, as idolaters, Act 104, Parl.7, King James VI.
        Likeas many Acts of Parliament are conceived for maintenance of God’s true and Chriƒtian religion, and the purity thereof, in doctrine and ƒacraments of the true church of God, the liberty and freedom thereof, in her national, ƒynodal aƒsemblies, preƒbyteries, ƒeƒsions, policy, diƒcipline, and juriƒdiction thereof; as that purity of religion, and liberty of the church was uƒed, profeƒsed, exerciƒed, preached, and confeƒsed, according to the reformation of religion in this realm: As for inƒtance, the 99th Act, Parl.7; Act 25, Parl. 11; Act 114, Parl. 12; Act 160, Parl. 13 of King James VI. ratified by the 4th Act of King Charles. So that the 6th Act, Parl. 1, and 68th Act, Parl. 6 of King James VI. in the year of God 1579, declare the miniƒters of the bleƒsed evangel, whom God of his mercy had raiƒed up, or hereafter ƒhould raiƒe, agreeing with them that then lived, in doctrine and adminiƒtration of the ƒacraments; and the people that profeƒsed Chriƒt, as he was then offered in the evangel, and doth communicate with the holy ƒacraments (as in the reformed kirks of this realm they were preƒently adminƒtrate) according to the Confeƒsion of Faith, to be the true and holy kirk of Chriƒt Jeƒus within this realm. And decerns and declares all and ƒundry, who either gainƒay the word of the evangel received and approved as the heads of the Confeƒsion of Faith, profeƒsed in Parliament in the year of God 1560, ƒpecified alƒo in the firƒt Parliament of King James VI., and ratified in this preƒent Parliament, more particularly do expreƒs; or that refuƒe the adminiƒtration of the holy ƒacraments, as they were then miniƒtrated; to be no members of the ƒaid kirk within this realm, and true religion preƒently profeƒsed, ƒo long as they keep themƒelves ƒo divided from the ƒociety of Chriƒt’s body. And the ƒubƒequent Act 69, Parl. 6 of King James VI. declares, that there is no other face of kirk, nor other face of religion, than was preƒently at that time, by the favour of God, eƒtabliƒhed within this realm: "Which therefore is ever ƒtyled God’s true religion, Chriƒt’s true religion, the true and Chriƒtian religion, and a perfect religion;" which, by manifold Acts of Parliament, all within this realm are bound to profeƒs, to ƒubƒcribe the articles thereof, the Confeƒsion of Faith, to recant all doctrine and errors repugnant to any of the ƒaid articles, Act 4 and 9, Parl. 1; Acts 45,46,47, Parl. 3; Act 71, Parl. 6; Act 106, Parl. 7; Act 24, Parl. 11; Act 123, Parl. 12; Act 194 and 197, Parl. 14 of King James VI. And all magiƒtrates, ƒheriffs, &c. on the one part, are ordained to ƒearch, apprehend, and puniƒh all contraveners: For inƒtance, Act 5, Parl. 1; Act 104, Parl. 7; Act 25, Parl. 11, King James VI.; and that notwithƒtanding of the King’s Majeƒty’s licences on the contrary, which are diƒcharged, and declared to be of no force, in ƒo far as they tend in any wiƒe to the prejudice and hinder of the execution of the Acts of Parliament againƒt Papiƒts and adverƒaries of true religion, Act 106, Parl. 7, King James VI. On the other part, in the 47th Act, Parl. 3, King James VI. it is declared and ordained, Seeing the cauƒe of God’s true religion and his Highneƒs’s authority are ƒo joined, as the hurt of the one is common to both; that none ƒhall be reputed as loyal and faithful ƒubjects to our ƒovereign Lord, or his authority, but be puniƒhable as rebellers and gainƒtanders of the ƒame, who ƒhall not give their confeƒsion, and make their profeƒsion of the ƒaid true religion: and that they who, after defection, ƒhall give the confeƒsion of their faith of new, they ƒhall promiƒe to continue therein in time coming, to maintain our ƒovereign Lord’s authority, and at the uttermoƒt of their power to fortify, aƒsiƒt, and maintain the true preachers and profeƒsors of Chriƒt’s religion, againƒt whatƒoever enemies and gainƒtanders of the ƒame; and namely, againƒt all ƒuch, of whatƒoever nation, eƒtate, or degree they be of, that have joined or bound themƒelves, or have aƒsiƒted, or aƒsiƒt, to ƒet forward and execute the cruel decrees of the council of Trent, contrary to the true preachers and profeƒsors of the word of God; which is repeated, word by word, in the articles of pacification at Perth, the 23d of February 1572, approved by Parliament the laƒt of April 1573, ratified in Parliament 1587, and related Act 123, Parl. 12 of King James VI.; with this addition, “That they are bound to reƒiƒt all treaƒonable uproars and hoƒtilities raiƒed againƒt the true religion, the King’s Majeƒty, and the true profeƒsors.”
        Likeas, all lieges are bound to maintain the King’s Majeƒty’s royal perƒon and authority, the authority of Parliaments, without the which neither any laws or lawful judicatories can be eƒtabliƒhed, Act 130 and 131, Parl. 8, King James VI., and the ƒubjects’ liberties, who ought only to live and be governed by the King’s laws, the common laws of this realm allenarly, Act 48, Parl.3, King James I.; Act 79, Parl. 6, King James IV.; repeated in the Act 131, Parl. 8, King James VI., which if they be innovated and prejudged, “the commiƒsion anent the union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England, which is the ƒole act of the 17th Parl. of King James VI. declares,” ƒuch confuƒion would enƒue as this realm could be no more a free monarchy: becauƒe, by the fundamental laws, ancient privileges, offices, and liberties of this kingdom, not only the princely authority of his Majeƒty’s royal deƒcent hath been theƒe many ages maintained, but alƒo the people’s ƒecurity of their lands, livings, rights, offices, liberties, and dignities preƒerved. And therefore, for the preƒervation of the ƒaid true religion, laws, and liberties of this kingdom, it is ƒtatute by the 8th Act, Parl. 1, repeated in the 99th Act, Parl. 7, ratified in the 23d Act, Parl. 11, and 114th Act, Parl. 12, of King James VI., and 4th Act, Parl. 1, of King Charles I. “That all Kings and Princes at their coronation, and reception of their princely authority, ƒhall make their faithful promiƒe by their ƒolemn oath, in the preƒence of the eternal God, that, enduring the whole time of their lives, they ƒhall ƒerve the ƒame eternal God, to the uttermoƒt of their power, according as he hath required in his moƒt holy word, contained in the Old and New Teƒtament; and according to the ƒame word, ƒhall maintain the true religion of Chriƒt Jeƒus, the preaching of his holy word, the due and right miniƒtration of the ƒacraments now received and preached within this realm, (according to the Confeƒsion of Faith immediately preceding,) and ƒhall aboliƒh and gainƒtand all falƒe religion contrary to the ƒame; and ƒhall rule the people committed to their charge, according to the will and command of God revealed in his foreƒaid word, and according to the laudable laws and conƒtitutions received in this realm, nowiƒe repugnant to the ƒaid will of the eternal God; and ƒhall procure, to the uttermoƒt of their power, to the kirk of God, and whole Chriƒtian people, true and perfect peace in all time coming: and that they ƒhall be careful to root out of their empire all hereticks and enemies to the true worƒhip of God, who ƒhall be convicted by the true kirk of God of the foreƒaid crimes.” Which was alƒo obƒerved by his Majeƒty, at his coronation in Edinburgh 1633, as may be ƒeen in the order of the coronation. In obedience to the commandment of God, conform to the practice of the godly in former times, and according to the laudable example of our worthy and religious progenitors, and of many yet living amongƒt us, which was warranted alƒo by act of council, commanding a general band to be made and ƒubƒcribed by his Majeƒty’s ƒubjects of all ranks; for two cauƒes: one was, For defending the true religion, as it was then reformed, and is expreƒsed in the Confeƒsion of Faith above written, and a former large Confeƒsion eƒtabliƒhed by ƒundry acts of lawful General Aƒsemblies and of Parliaments, unto which it hath relation, ƒet down in publick Catechiƒms; and which hath been for many years, with a bleƒsing from heaven, preached and profeƒsed in this kirk and kingdom, as God’s undoubted truth, grounded only upon his written word. The other cauƒe was, For maintaining the King’s Majeƒty, his perƒon and eƒtate; the true worƒhip of God and the King’s authority being ƒo ƒtraitly joined, as that they had the ƒame friends and common enemies, and did ƒtand and fall together. And finally, being convinced in our minds, and confeƒsing with our mouths, that the preƒent and ƒucceeding generations in this land are bound to keep the foreƒaid national oath and ƒubƒcription inviolable.
        We Noblemen, Barons, Gentlemen, Burgeƒses, Miniƒters, and Commons under-ƒubƒcribing, conƒidering divers times before, and eƒpecially at this time, the danger of the true reformed religion, of the King’s honour, and of the publick peace of the kingdom, by the manifold innovations and evils, generally contained, and particularly mentioned in our late ƒupplications, complaints, and proteƒtations; do hereby profeƒs, and before God, his angels, and the world, ƒolemnly declare, That with our whole heart we agree, and reƒolve all the days of our life conƒtantly to adhere unto and to defend the foreƒaid true religion, and (forbearing the practice of all innovations already introduced in the matters of the worƒhip of God, or approbation of the corruptions of the publick government of the kirk, or civil places and power of kirkmen, till they be tried and allowed in free Aƒsemblies and in Parliament) to labour, by all means lawful, to recover the purity and liberty of the Goƒpel, as it was eƒtabliƒhed and profeƒsed before the foreƒaid novations. And becauƒe, after due examination, we plainly perceive, and undoubtedly believe, that the innovations and evils contained in our ƒupplications, complaints, and proteƒtations, have no warrant of the word of God, are contrary to the articles of the foreƒaid Confeƒsion, to the intention and meaning of the bleƒsed reformers of religion in this land, to the above-written acts of Parliament; and do ƒenƒibly tend to the re-eƒtabliƒhing of the Popiƒh religion and tyranny, and to the ƒubverƒion and ruin of the true reformed religion, and of our liberties, laws, and eƒtates; we alƒo declare, That the foreƒaid Confeƒsions are to be interpreted, and ought to be underƒtood of the foreƒaid novations and evils, no leƒs than if every one of them had been expreƒsed in the foreƒaid Confeƒsions; and that we are obliged to deteƒt and abhor them, amongƒt other particular heads of Papiƒtry abjured therein. And therefore, from the knowledge and conƒcience of our duty to God, to our King and country, without any worldly reƒpect or inducement, ƒo far as human infirmity will ƒuffer, wiƒhing a further meaƒure of the grace of God for this effect; we promiƒe and ƒwear, by the GREAT NAME OF THE LORD OUR GOD, to continue in the profeƒsion and obedience of the foreƒaid religion; and that we ƒhall defend the ƒame, and reƒiƒt all theƒe contrary errors and corruptions, according to our vocation, and to the uttermoƒt of that power that God hath put in our hands, all the days of our life.
        And in like manner, with the ƒame heart, we declare before God and men, That we have no intention nor deƒire to attempt anything that may turn to the diƒhonour of God, or to the diminution of the King’s greatneƒs and authority; but, on the contrary, we promiƒe and ƒwear, That we ƒhall, to the uttermoƒt of our power, with our means and lives, ƒtand to the defence of our dread ƒovereign the King’s Majeƒty, his perƒon and authority, in the defence and preƒervation of the foreƒaid true religion, liberties, and laws of the kingdom; as alƒo to the mutual defence and aƒsiƒtance every one of us of another, in the ƒame cauƒe of maintaining the true religion, and his Majeƒty’s authority, with our beƒt counƒel, our bodies, means, and whole power, againƒt all ƒorts of perƒons whatƒoever; ƒo that whatƒoever ƒhall be done to the leaƒt of us for that cauƒe, ƒhall be taken as done to us all in general, and to every one of us in particular. And that we ƒhall neither directly nor indirectly ƒuffer ourƒelves to be divided or withdrawn, by whatƒoever ƒuggeƒtion, combination, allurement, or terror, from this bleƒsed and loyal conjunction; nor ƒhall caƒt in any let or impediment that may ƒtay or hinder any ƒuch reƒolution as by common conƒent ƒhall be found to conduce for ƒo good ends; but, on the contrary, ƒhall by all lawful means labour to further and promote the ƒame: and if any ƒuch dangerous and diviƒive motion be made to us by word or writ, we, and every one of us, ƒhall either ƒuppreƒs it, or, if need be, ƒhall incontinent make the ƒame known, that it may be timeouƒly obviated. Neither do we fear the foul aƒperƒions of rebellion, combination, or what elƒe our adverƒaries, from their craft and malice, would put upon us; ƒeeing what we do is ƒo well warranted, and ariƒeth from an unfeigned deƒire to maintain the true worƒhip of God, the majeƒty of our King, and the peace of the kingdom, for the common happineƒs of ourƒelves and our poƒterity. And becauƒe we cannot look for a bleƒsing from God upon our proceedings, except with our profeƒsion and ƒubƒcription we join ƒuch a life and converƒation as beƒeemeth Chriƒtians who have renewed their covenant with God; we therefore faithfully promiƒe for ourƒelves, our followers, and all others under us, both in publick, and in our particular families, and perƒonal carriage, to endeavour to keep ourƒelves within the bounds of Chriƒtian liberty, and to be good examples to others of all godlineƒs, ƒoberneƒs, and righteouƒneƒs, and of every duty we owe to God and man.
        And, that this our union and conjunction may be obƒerved without violation, we call the LIVING GOD, THE SEARCHER OF OUR HEARTS, to witneƒs, who knoweth this to be our ƒincere deƒire and unfeigned reƒolution, as we ƒhall anƒwer to JESUS CHRIST in the great day, and under the pain of God’s everlaƒting wrath, and of infamy and loƒs of all honour and reƒpect in this world: moƒt humbly beƒeeching the LORD to ƒtrengthen us by his HOLY SPIRIT for this end, and to bleƒs our deƒires and proceedings with a happy ƒucceƒs; that religion and righteouƒneƒs may flouriƒh in the land, to the glory of GOD, the honour of our King, and peace and comfort of us all. In witneƒs whereof, we have ƒubƒcribed with our hands all the premiƒes.
        THE article of this covenant, which was at the firƒt ƒubƒcription referred to the determination of the General Aƒsembly, being now determined; and thereby the five articles of Perth, the government of the kirk by biƒhops, and the civil places and power of kirkmen, upon the reaƒons and grounds contained in the Acts of the General Aƒsembly, declared to be unlawful within this kirk, we ƒubƒcribe according to the determination aforeƒaid.

  The hundreds of Scotsmen who signed the National Covenant were labeled Covenanters, and were viewed by their kinsmen as patriots in the struggle to establish Scotland’s independence from England. As the Covenant was copied and spread throughout the country, more and more Scotsmen signed the document.

  By the summer of 1638, the de facto government of Scotland resided in the Tables, with the National Covenant as the nation’s ‘declaration of independence.’ The coastal towns and cities saw an increase in the importation of arms and amunition from abroad. And Scottish soldiers serving elsewhere were returning home in large numbers. An open confrontation appeared inevitable.

  In November, 1638 the King allowed the Scottish General Assembly to convene at Glasgow. The Assembly lost no time in enacting a number of laws to counteract the king’s actions. The Prayer Book was condemned as “heathenish, Popish, Jewish and Arminian”(2.15) and was promptly abolished. The bishops were all either deposed or excommunicated. A Commission was set up to explore abuses. Charles responded by proclaiming that all of the Assembly’s decisions were invalid because his own Commissioner to the Assembly had been absent from the proceedings.


2.13     A Concise History Of Scotland, by Fitzroy Maclean 1970, p 90.

2.14     Transcript of the National Covenant is excerpted from the website of the Home Page Of The Reformed Presbyterian Church (Covenanted) and used by permission. See URL address:

2.15     op cit., A Concise History Of Scotland, p 118.