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 Knoxs 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 Kings 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: www.scots-roots.co.uk
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 Majestys authority.
|The National Covenant, Or The Confession Of Faith
WE all and every one of us under-written, protet, That, after long and due examination of our own conciences in matters of true and fale religion, we are now thoroughly reolved in the truth by the word and Spirit of God: and therefore we believe with our hearts, confes with our mouths, ubcribe with our hands, and contantly affirm, before God and the whole world, that this only is the true Chritian faith and religion, pleaing God, and bringing alvation to man, which now is, by the mercy of God, revealed to the world by the preaching of the blesed evangel; and is received, believed, and defended by many and undry notable kirks and realms, but chiefly by the kirk of Scotland, the Kings Majety, and three etates of this realm, as Gods eternal truth, and only ground of our alvation; as more particularly is expresed in the Confesion of our Faith, etablihed and publickly confirmed by undry acts of Parliaments, and now of a long time hath been openly profesed by the Kings Majety, and whole body of this realm both in burgh and land. To the which Confesion and Form of Religion we willingly agree in our concience in all points, as unto Gods undoubted truth and verity, grounded only upon his written word. And therefore we abhor and detet all contrary religion and doctrine; but chiefly all kind of Papitry in general and particular heads, even as they are now damned and confuted by the word of God and Kirk of Scotland. But, in pecial, we detet and refue the uurped authority of that Roman Antichrit upon the criptures of God, upon the kirk, the civil magitrate, and conciences of men; all his tyrannous laws made upon indifferent things againt our Chritian liberty; his erroneous doctrine againt the ufficiency of the written word, the perfection of the law, the office of Chrit, and his blesed evangel; his corrupted doctrine concerning original in, our natural inability and rebellion to Gods law, our jutification by faith only, our imperfect anctification and obedience to the law; the nature, number, and ue of the holy acraments; his five batard acraments, with all his rites, ceremonies, and fale doctrine, added to the minitration of the true acraments without the word of God; his cruel judgment againt infants departing without the acrament; his abolute necesity of baptim; his blaphemous opinion of tranubtantiation, or real preence of Chrits body in the elements, and receiving of the ame by the wicked, or bodies of men; his dipenations with olemn oaths, perjuries, and degrees of marriage forbidden in the word; his cruelty againt the innocent divorced; his devilih mas; his blaphemous priethood; his profane acrifice for ins of the dead and the quick; his canonization of men; calling upon angels or aints departed, worhipping of imagery, relicks, and croses; dedicating of kirks, altars, days; vows to creatures; his purgatory, prayers for the dead; praying or peaking in a trange language, with his procesions, and blaphemous litany, and multitude of advocates or mediators; his manifold orders, auricular confesion; his deperate and uncertain repentance; his general and doubtome faith; his atifaction of men for their ins; his jutification by works, opus operatum, works of upererogation, merits, pardons, peregrinations, and tations; his holy water, baptizing of bells, conjuring of pirits, crosing, ayning, anointing, conjuring, hallowing of Gods good creatures, with the upertitious opinion joined therewith; his worldly monarchy, and wicked hierarchy; his three olemn vows, with all his havelings of undry orts; his erroneous and bloody decrees made at Trent, with all the ubcribers or approvers of that cruel and bloody band, conjured againt the kirk of God. And finally, we detet all his vain allegories, rites, igns, and traditions brought in the kirk, without or againt the word of God, and doctrine of this true reformed kirk; to the which we join ourelves willingly, in doctrine, faith, religion, dicipline, and ue of the holy acraments, as lively members of the ame in Chrit our head: promiing and wearing, by the great name of the LORD our GOD, that we hall continue in the obedience of the doctrine and dicipline of this kirk [The Confesion which was ubcribed at Halyrud-houe the 25th of February 1587-8, by the King, Lennox Huntly, the Chancellor, and about 95 other perons, hath here added, Agreeing to the word. Sir John Maxwell of Pollock hath the original parchment.], and hall defend the ame, 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 oul in the day of Gods fearful judgment.
And eeing that many are tirred up by Satan, and that Roman Antichrit, to promie, wear, ubcribe, and for a time ue the holy acraments in the kirk deceitfully, againt their own concience; minding hereby,firt, under the external cloak of religion, to corrupt and ubvert ecretly Gods true religion within the kirk; and afterward, when time may erve, to become open enemies and perecutors of the ame, under vain hope of the Popes dipenation, devied againt the word of God, to his greater confuion, and their double condemnation in the day of the Lord Jeus: we therefore, willing to take away all upicion of hypocriy, and of uch double dealing with God, and his kirk, protet, and call the Searcher of all hearts for witnes, that our minds and hearts do fully agree with this our Confesion, promie, oath, and ubcription: o that we are not moved with any worldly repect, but are peruaded only in our concience, through the knowledge and love of Gods true religion imprinted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as we hall anwer to him in the day when the ecrets of all hearts hall be dicloed.
And becaue we perceive, that the quietnes and tability of our religion and kirk doth depend upon the afety and good behaviour of the Kings Majety, as upon a comfortable intrument of Gods mercy granted to this country, for the maintaining of his kirk, and minitration of jutice amongt us; we protet and promie with our hearts, under the ame oath, hand-writ, and pains, that we hall defend his peron and authority with our goods, bodies, and lives, in the defence of Chrit, his evangel, liberties of our country, minitration of jutice, and punihment of iniquity, againt all enemies within this realm or without, as we deire our God to be a trong and merciful defender to us in the day of our death, and coming of our Lord Jeus Chrit; 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 recind all laws, tatutes, acts, contitutions, canons civil or municipal, with all other ordinances, and practique penalties whatoever, made in prejudice of the true religion, and profesors thereof; or of the true kirk, dicipline, juridiction, and freedom thereof; or in favours of idolatry and upertition, or of the Papitical kirk: As Act 3, Act 31, Parl. 1; Act 23, Parl. 11; Act 114, Parl. 12 of King James VI., That Papitry and upertition may be utterly uppresed, 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 Papits and Priets to be punihed with manifold civil and eccleiatical pains, as adveraries to Gods true religion, preached, and by law etablihed, within this realm, Act 24, Parl. 11, King James VI.; as common enemies to all Chritian government, Act 18, Parl. 16, King James VI.; as rebellers and gaintanders of our Sovereign Lords authority, Act 47, Parl.3, King James VI.; and as idolaters, Act 104, Parl.l7, King James VI. But alo in particular, by and attour the Confesion of Faith, do abolih and condemn the Popes authority and juridiction out of this land, and ordains the maintainers thereof to be punihed, Act 2, Parl.1; Act 51, Parl.3; Act 106, Parl. 7; Act 114, Parl. 12, King James VI.: do condemn the Popes erroneous doctrine, or any other erroneous doctrine repugnant to any of the articles of the true and Chritian religion, publickly preached and by law etablihed in this realm; and ordains the preaders and makers of books or libels, or letters or writs of that nature, to be punihed, Act 46, Parl. 3; Act 106, Parl. 7; Act 24, Parl. 11, King James VI.: do condemn all baptim conform to the Popes kirk, and the idolatry of the mas; and ordains all ayers, willful hearers, and concealers of the mas, the maintainers and reetters of the priets, Jeuits, trafficking Papits, to be punihed without any exception or retriction, 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 againt the religion preently profesed, or containing upertitious rites and ceremonies Papitical, whereby the people are greatly abued; and ordains the home-bringers of them to be punihed, Act 25, Parl. 11, King James VI.: do condemn the monuments and dregs of bygone idolatry, as going to croses, oberving the fetival days of aints, and uch other upertitious and Papitical rites, to the dihonour of God, contempt of true religion, and fotering of great error among the people; and ordains the uers of them to be punihed for the econd fault, as idolaters, Act 104, Parl.7, King James VI.
Likeas many Acts of Parliament are conceived for maintenance of Gods true and Chritian religion, and the purity thereof, in doctrine and acraments of the true church of God, the liberty and freedom thereof, in her national, ynodal asemblies, prebyteries, esions, policy, dicipline, and juridiction thereof; as that purity of religion, and liberty of the church was ued, profesed, exercied, preached, and confesed, according to the reformation of religion in this realm: As for intance, 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 miniters of the blesed evangel, whom God of his mercy had raied up, or hereafter hould raie, agreeing with them that then lived, in doctrine and adminitration of the acraments; and the people that profesed Chrit, as he was then offered in the evangel, and doth communicate with the holy acraments (as in the reformed kirks of this realm they were preently admintrate) according to the Confesion of Faith, to be the true and holy kirk of Chrit Jeus within this realm. And decerns and declares all and undry, who either gainay the word of the evangel received and approved as the heads of the Confesion of Faith, profesed in Parliament in the year of God 1560, pecified alo in the firt Parliament of King James VI., and ratified in this preent Parliament, more particularly do expres; or that refue the adminitration of the holy acraments, as they were then minitrated; to be no members of the aid kirk within this realm, and true religion preently profesed, o long as they keep themelves o divided from the ociety of Chrits body. And the ubequent Act 69, Parl. 6 of King James VI. declares, that there is no other face of kirk, nor other face of religion, than was preently at that time, by the favour of God, etablihed within this realm: "Which therefore is ever tyled Gods true religion, Chrits true religion, the true and Chritian religion, and a perfect religion;" which, by manifold Acts of Parliament, all within this realm are bound to profes, to ubcribe the articles thereof, the Confesion of Faith, to recant all doctrine and errors repugnant to any of the aid 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 magitrates, heriffs, &c. on the one part, are ordained to earch, apprehend, and punih all contraveners: For intance, Act 5, Parl. 1; Act 104, Parl. 7; Act 25, Parl. 11, King James VI.; and that notwithtanding of the Kings Majetys licences on the contrary, which are dicharged, and declared to be of no force, in o far as they tend in any wie to the prejudice and hinder of the execution of the Acts of Parliament againt Papits and adveraries 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 caue of Gods true religion and his Highness authority are o joined, as the hurt of the one is common to both; that none hall be reputed as loyal and faithful ubjects to our overeign Lord, or his authority, but be punihable as rebellers and gaintanders of the ame, who hall not give their confesion, and make their profesion of the aid true religion: and that they who, after defection, hall give the confesion of their faith of new, they hall promie to continue therein in time coming, to maintain our overeign Lords authority, and at the uttermot of their power to fortify, asit, and maintain the true preachers and profesors of Chrits religion, againt whatoever enemies and gaintanders of the ame; and namely, againt all uch, of whatoever nation, etate, or degree they be of, that have joined or bound themelves, or have asited, or asit, to et forward and execute the cruel decrees of the council of Trent, contrary to the true preachers and profesors 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 lat 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 reit all treaonable uproars and hotilities raied againt the true religion, the Kings Majety, and the true profesors.
Likeas, all lieges are bound to maintain the Kings Majetys royal peron and authority, the authority of Parliaments, without the which neither any laws or lawful judicatories can be etablihed, Act 130 and 131, Parl. 8, King James VI., and the ubjects liberties, who ought only to live and be governed by the Kings 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 commision anent the union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England, which is the ole act of the 17th Parl. of King James VI. declares, uch confuion would enue as this realm could be no more a free monarchy: becaue, by the fundamental laws, ancient privileges, offices, and liberties of this kingdom, not only the princely authority of his Majetys royal decent hath been thee many ages maintained, but alo the peoples ecurity of their lands, livings, rights, offices, liberties, and dignities preerved. And therefore, for the preervation of the aid true religion, laws, and liberties of this kingdom, it is tatute 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, hall make their faithful promie by their olemn oath, in the preence of the eternal God, that, enduring the whole time of their lives, they hall erve the ame eternal God, to the uttermot of their power, according as he hath required in his mot holy word, contained in the Old and New Tetament; and according to the ame word, hall maintain the true religion of Chrit Jeus, the preaching of his holy word, the due and right minitration of the acraments now received and preached within this realm, (according to the Confesion of Faith immediately preceding,) and hall abolih and gaintand all fale religion contrary to the ame; and hall rule the people committed to their charge, according to the will and command of God revealed in his foreaid word, and according to the laudable laws and contitutions received in this realm, nowie repugnant to the aid will of the eternal God; and hall procure, to the uttermot of their power, to the kirk of God, and whole Chritian people, true and perfect peace in all time coming: and that they hall be careful to root out of their empire all hereticks and enemies to the true worhip of God, who hall be convicted by the true kirk of God of the foreaid crimes. Which was alo oberved by his Majety, at his coronation in Edinburgh 1633, as may be een 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 amongt us, which was warranted alo by act of council, commanding a general band to be made and ubcribed by his Majetys ubjects of all ranks; for two caues: one was, For defending the true religion, as it was then reformed, and is expresed in the Confesion of Faith above written, and a former large Confesion etablihed by undry acts of lawful General Asemblies and of Parliaments, unto which it hath relation, et down in publick Catechims; and which hath been for many years, with a blesing from heaven, preached and profesed in this kirk and kingdom, as Gods undoubted truth, grounded only upon his written word. The other caue was, For maintaining the Kings Majety, his peron and etate; the true worhip of God and the Kings authority being o traitly joined, as that they had the ame friends and common enemies, and did tand and fall together. And finally, being convinced in our minds, and confesing with our mouths, that the preent and ucceeding generations in this land are bound to keep the foreaid national oath and ubcription inviolable.
We Noblemen, Barons, Gentlemen, Burgeses, Miniters, and Commons under-ubcribing, conidering divers times before, and epecially at this time, the danger of the true reformed religion, of the Kings honour, and of the publick peace of the kingdom, by the manifold innovations and evils, generally contained, and particularly mentioned in our late upplications, complaints, and protetations; do hereby profes, and before God, his angels, and the world, olemnly declare, That with our whole heart we agree, and reolve all the days of our life contantly to adhere unto and to defend the foreaid true religion, and (forbearing the practice of all innovations already introduced in the matters of the worhip 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 Asemblies and in Parliament) to labour, by all means lawful, to recover the purity and liberty of the Gopel, as it was etablihed and profesed before the foreaid novations. And becaue, after due examination, we plainly perceive, and undoubtedly believe, that the innovations and evils contained in our upplications, complaints, and protetations, have no warrant of the word of God, are contrary to the articles of the foreaid Confesion, to the intention and meaning of the blesed reformers of religion in this land, to the above-written acts of Parliament; and do enibly tend to the re-etablihing of the Popih religion and tyranny, and to the ubverion and ruin of the true reformed religion, and of our liberties, laws, and etates; we alo declare, That the foreaid Confesions are to be interpreted, and ought to be undertood of the foreaid novations and evils, no les than if every one of them had been expresed in the foreaid Confesions; and that we are obliged to detet and abhor them, amongt other particular heads of Papitry abjured therein. And therefore, from the knowledge and concience of our duty to God, to our King and country, without any worldly repect or inducement, o far as human infirmity will uffer, wihing a further meaure of the grace of God for this effect; we promie and wear, by the GREAT NAME OF THE LORD OUR GOD, to continue in the profesion and obedience of the foreaid religion; and that we hall defend the ame, and reit all thee contrary errors and corruptions, according to our vocation, and to the uttermot of that power that God hath put in our hands, all the days of our life.
And in like manner, with the ame heart, we declare before God and men, That we have no intention nor deire to attempt anything that may turn to the dihonour of God, or to the diminution of the Kings greatnes and authority; but, on the contrary, we promie and wear, That we hall, to the uttermot of our power, with our means and lives, tand to the defence of our dread overeign the Kings Majety, his peron and authority, in the defence and preervation of the foreaid true religion, liberties, and laws of the kingdom; as alo to the mutual defence and asitance every one of us of another, in the ame caue of maintaining the true religion, and his Majetys authority, with our bet counel, our bodies, means, and whole power, againt all orts of perons whatoever; o that whatoever hall be done to the leat of us for that caue, hall be taken as done to us all in general, and to every one of us in particular. And that we hall neither directly nor indirectly uffer ourelves to be divided or withdrawn, by whatoever uggetion, combination, allurement, or terror, from this blesed and loyal conjunction; nor hall cat in any let or impediment that may tay or hinder any uch reolution as by common conent hall be found to conduce for o good ends; but, on the contrary, hall by all lawful means labour to further and promote the ame: and if any uch dangerous and diviive motion be made to us by word or writ, we, and every one of us, hall either uppres it, or, if need be, hall incontinent make the ame known, that it may be timeouly obviated. Neither do we fear the foul aperions of rebellion, combination, or what ele our adveraries, from their craft and malice, would put upon us; eeing what we do is o well warranted, and arieth from an unfeigned deire to maintain the true worhip of God, the majety of our King, and the peace of the kingdom, for the common happines of ourelves and our poterity. And becaue we cannot look for a blesing from God upon our proceedings, except with our profesion and ubcription we join uch a life and converation as beeemeth Chritians who have renewed their covenant with God; we therefore faithfully promie for ourelves, our followers, and all others under us, both in publick, and in our particular families, and peronal carriage, to endeavour to keep ourelves within the bounds of Chritian liberty, and to be good examples to others of all godlines, obernes, and righteounes, and of every duty we owe to God and man.
And, that this our union and conjunction may be oberved without violation, we call the LIVING GOD, THE SEARCHER OF OUR HEARTS, to witnes, who knoweth this to be our incere deire and unfeigned reolution, as we hall anwer to JESUS CHRIST in the great day, and under the pain of Gods everlating wrath, and of infamy and los of all honour and repect in this world: mot humbly beeeching the LORD to trengthen us by his HOLY SPIRIT for this end, and to bles our deires and proceedings with a happy ucces; that religion and righteounes may flourih in the land, to the glory of GOD, the honour of our King, and peace and comfort of us all. In witnes whereof, we have ubcribed with our hands all the premies.
THE article of this covenant, which was at the firt ubcription referred to the determination of the General Asembly, being now determined; and thereby the five articles of Perth, the government of the kirk by bihops, and the civil places and power of kirkmen, upon the reaons and grounds contained in the Acts of the General Asembly, declared to be unlawful within this kirk, we ubcribe according to the determination aforeaid.
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 Scotlands 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 nations 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 kings 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 Assemblys 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: http://www.covenanter.org/index.htm
2.15 op cit., A Concise History Of Scotland, p 118.