PUBLIC COVENANTING.
INTRODUCTORY LECTURE
AT THE OPENING OF THE SESSION OF THE
REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY,
NOVEMBER 7, 1848.
BY
JAMES R. WILSON, D.D.
PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, &c.

"Vow to the Lord your God, and pay."

CINCINNATI:
PRINTED BY SMITH AND CHIPMAN,
CORNER OF FOURTH & WALNUT STREETS.
1849.

CINCINNATI, 1848, Dec. 12.

DEAR SIR:—

The Students of the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, having heard with great interest your address at the opening of the present Session; and believing that it will be useful to the Church, and interesting to the public, respectfully request a copy for publication.

J B. WILLIAMS,
J. R. THOMPSON,
A. C. TODD,
Committee.

Rev. J.R. WILLSON, D. D.

Messrs. J.B. Williams, J.R. Thompson, A.C. Todd:—.

I thank you for your favorable opinion of the Introductory, and place it at your disposal for publication, praying that the Head of the Church may render it useful for your own edification, and for that of others.

Yours, truly,

JAS. R. WILLSON.

1848, Dec. 12.


COVENANTING.

THE OBLIGATIONS OF THE SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT ON THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES.


It is received as a maxim among us, that public covenants, bind the posterity of those who enter into them. That the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant extend to his descendants according to the flesh, and to all his spiritual seed, is a received doctrine of all Presbyterians. The National covenant at Horeb secured blessings to the commonwealth of Israel, in every generation from Moses to Christ, and it bound the nation and church to all the duties obligatory on the actual covenanters. When the nation was divided in the reign of Rehoboam, the ten tribes that declared independence and maintain it till the reign of Hezekiah, were, for all that time, as fully comprehended in the covenants of their fathers as were the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The independent republic of Northern Palestine sinned greatly, but they were backsliders only, not apostates, until they were carried away in the reign of Hoshea.

The captives in Babylon were as fully God’s covenant people during their seventy years absence in a strange land, as when at home in Judah. Even now, both "the dispersed of Judah and the outcasts of Israel" are to all intents and purposes under the Israelitish covenants. "And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen whither the Lord shall lead you, and there shall ye serve gods the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shall be obedient unto his voice, for the Lord thy God is a merciful God, he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers, which he swear unto them." Deut. 4:27,31. This promise at mercy to be dispensed in the latter or gospel days, has not been yet fulfilled. The Jews are not yet converted. But they are in covenant with God from Horeb, although they have despised it for 1815 years.

The treaties of nations are acknowledged by all civilians to bind the parties as long as they exist, even to many generations.

Debts contracted are payable by kingdoms until paid, although the actual borrowers have been dead for ages.

Children, who inherit their father’s estate, are bound in law to pay the debts of their parents. Parents’ vows bind their baptized children. "If it be but a man’s covenant no man disannulleth or addeth thereto," much more God’s.

It will be granted by every Covenanter that the inhabitants of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, with the neighboring islands, are in covenant with God in the Solemn League and Covenant. To this truth we are all sworn in our terms of communion, in the vows to the Lord in baptism, in the Lord’s supper, in all the ordination oaths of our ministers, elders and deacons. Our sworn to terms of communion declare (art. II.) "That these, vows namely, the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms, Scotland, England and Ireland, extend to all who were represented in the taking of them, although removed to this or any other land, so far as they contain truths and duties not peculiar to the British Isles, but applicable in all lands." This truth cannot be gainsayed without an entire rejection of the descending obligation of national covenants. Such a rejection subverts the foundation of all social organizations, tears asunder all the ties that bind together parents and their offspring.

An inquiry of the deepest interest here presents itself—are the people of these United States, who compose this great republic, entitled to claim of God the inestimable blessings secured by charter to the isles of our fathers’ sepulchres? If we are entitled to claim the rights and immunities of these noble, holy and immortal deeds, then we are bound to perform all the duties embraced in their provisions. This seems evidently to have been the intention of those who framed our terms of communion. All who were represented in the taking of them are the nations of Great Britain. They could not have meant anything else, unless it is maintained that a majority of the people of this republic are not descended of British ancestry. If they are not, these states are no more embraced in the Solemn League and Covenant, than the Babylonians were in the covenant of Horeb.

The present population of the United States may be estimated at more than 21,258,212. It cannot be less. In 1830 it was 12,866,920. By the census of 1840, it was 17,062,566.[1] The increase in ten years was 4,195,646, which added to the population of 1840 makes the 21,158,212. By comparing the increase between 1820 and 1830 with that between 1830 and 1840, we find the increase of the latter period nearly doubles that of the former. The population of 1820 was 9,638,131, less than that of 1830, by 3,228,789, whereas, the increase in the next ten years was as above, 4,195,646. By adding the difference between the former and latter decade, our present population is 21,258,212. This is nearly the truth. The present decade is not completed, but the census of 1850, unless a fearful consumption of desolation sweep over the land, will show an increase of more than 6,000,000.

The question is, are more than half this people descended from those bound by the British covenants? Let the following facts answer:—Leaving out our fellow-citizens of the African family, whose blood is not mixed with that of our Anglo-Saxon races, the whole white population and the mixed blood, may be safely estimated at 21,000,000.

By the first census, 1790, the total population was 3,929,827—less than the increase of the last decade, by 265,819. Supposing that from 1780 to 1790, the increase was as great, which it could not be, as at the first census of our republic, the number of inhabitants was then 2,553,729. The population of the nation doubles every twenty-five years. Hence, by halving that of 1780, we have 1,276,864. This carries us back to 1755. By the same process, in 1730, there were 638,432. Again, in 1805, there were 319,916. In 1680, there were 159,608. By supposing the population of the colonies to have doubled in thirty-seven years, from 1643, when the kingdom of Great Britain swore allegiance to Messiah, the Prince of the kings of the earth, in the Solemn League and Covenant, there were in the nine infant colonies, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island,[2] but 79,804. But this computation reduces the number too low; for after the Revolution, the increase was about three times as fast as before. By the way, this is a forcible illustration of the happy condition of a free republic, compared with the state of colonial vassalage. Multiply 79,804 by 3, and it quotes the population of the colonies at 239,442, when Great Britain covenanted, 1643. At that time a few Swedes were living on the Delaware below Philadelphia, and a small colony from Holland, in New York, it is impossible now to know how many of either. But we know there were then a few families only of Swedes, and a very small colony of Hollanders at New Amsterdam, now New York. All the other colonists were British, and many, probably most of their parents alive when the Westminster divines, and the Lords and Commons, Synods, and all Presbyterians over the broad extent of the fair Isles of our covenant fathers’ graves entered into covenant with their and our God. The colony of Connecticut was settled ten years only before 1643, Maryland nine, Rhode Island eight, and the oldest Virginia, thirty-seven, Massachusetts twenty-three, New Jersey nineteen, and Delaware sixteen. They are usually young people who emigrate. It is evident then, that their fathers and mothers were most of them living when the whole nation, as such was taken into new covenant relation with God.

The Germans of Pennsylvania were Protestants, and of the Covenant of Smalkald, the same in substance as the great British bond. The population of Louisiana and Mississippi together, is 728,062. One half of these may be of French ancestry—364,031. The Florida census of 1840, gives 54,477—about one-third of Spanish descent—18,055. That added to the Gallic race, makes 382,190. So that the whole of the races, Holland, French, German and Spanish, amounted to 1,381,294 at the end of the last decade. It does not now amount to 2,000,000. The proportion of our British race to all others, is as 18 to 5, probably near the ratio of the descendants of Abraham to the "mixed multitude" that came out of Egypt with them. The proportion of the Protestant population to the Catholic in 1643, was not greater, if so great, in Great Britain. But we all maintain that the Papists as a part of the British nation, are under the national vow of the empire. It cannot be denied, unless it be maintained that the righteous deeds of the majority of a nation are not obligatory on the minority, and that a minority of the commonwealth cannot claim privileges secured to all by the government deed of the legislative department. This no sane man will dare to assert.

All the colonies at the time of the swearing of the national bond of Britain, 1643, were an integral part of the empire. The titles to their land, were issued by the crown of England. All the officers of every colony but New York, were appointed by the king; none were elected by the people, except members of the colonial legislatures. Our fathers, before the Revolution, assented to this; as the people of Canada and of the other North American colonies now do. All this allegiance was transferred to the covenanted government, and continued from 1643 to 1649. The colonies were as really the offspring of Britain, as Isaac and Jacob were of Abraham, and as such were entitled to all the blessings secured to our New Testament Israel, by their fathers. "The promise is to you and to your children." "I will be a God to thee and to thy seed." "My word shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor of thy seed’s seed forever." These promises "are made sure to all the seed" or colonial offspring of covenanted nations, as truly as to the children of parents, according to the flesh. To all this it may be objected, that in 1776 our thirteen American colonies, that have since grown into this republic, declared independence of the British nation. To this the answer is: 1. That act did not declare independence of the throne of Messiah, and if it had, Christ’s claims on us would not have been diminished. "The Lord hath not cast off his people." The consent given to our independence by the king, at the treaty of Paris, was by an illegitimate monarch, who had trampled under foot the covenant constitution of the empire, and could be of no force to free our fathers from their covenant obligation. The throne of George III. was usurped, and the crown of Emmanuel trampled under foot. How could independence of such a government, either of right, or of fact, dissever the bonds of our covenant with God? 2. The declaration of independence by the ten tribes did not free them from their covenant connection with the God of Israel. They do not appear, bad as they were, even to have thought so. 3. "God is Lord of the whole earth," He is our God—once our God and always our God. If we attempt to cast him off as many do their baptismal covenant, it is at our peril. We despise our birth-right, like that profane person Esau. Thanks to God there is still a remnant, in this backsliding land, that claim and plead a covenant connection with God’s host of Covenanted heroes, who lifted their hand and swore allegiance to Messiah, "Who liveth for ever and ever." 4. When children leave their father’s household, by entering into the marriage relation, they are not thereby released from any of their moral obligations. They take their baptismal covenant, with the blessings of their godly parents, into the new household. Blessed be God for the liberal provisions contained in our charter privileges, secured by the covenant of grace, in Christ our redeeming Head and Husband. Our land is Beulah—married to the Lord.

This argument is augmented in its force, by the fact that the congress of ‘74, elected by the people of the colonies, solemnly claimed all the rights and immunities of British subjects. Hear the preamble of one of their resolutions. "That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts have the following rights."

"That our ancestors who first settled these colonies, were, at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties and immunities of free and natural born subjects, within the realm.[3] This claim is reiterated in their petition to the crown, in their state papers and is embodied in the Declaration of Independence, which was responded to by two and a half millions of people with acclamation. The best of these immunities were these secured by the great national charter, granted us by the Church’s Head—the Solemn League and Covenant. It maybe said that the statesmen who passed these documents did not mean this. Probably not. They did not pretend to know every immunity of British subjects. He who claims a farm does not know all the treasures of the soil, forest, and flood, but more or less, few or many, he asserts his right to all by the deed which secures his title. If these statesmen earnestly claimed in the name of the people all the temporal blessings of British subjects, shall not the Christian people of this land, claim with more zeal the spiritual blessings which enrich the soul for immortal life? This argument alone is deemed irrefutable.

But farther, all the congregations of the New England puritans, in baptism and at the Lord’s supper, bound their souls to the Solemn League and Covenant. No Covenanter can doubt after knowing this fact, that the six New England states, and all the descendents of the pilgrim fathers are entitled to the blessings of these Protestant covenants; and they are a great host at home, and marshaled along the southern borders of the Great Lakes of the north.

The states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, are Presbyterian. Take away all the members of the great Presbyterian family, and you hardly leave a skeleton of any state. This forms a strong presumption, if not a clear proof that a very great majority of all the people in the middle and western states, are the descendants of actual Covenanters. All Presbyterians, as well as all British puritans in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, engaged themselves to God through Christ in that ever memorable, most illustrious and holy transaction, the Solemn League and Covenant. That vow embraced the National Covenant of Scotland. If these facts, are admitted, and the veriest smatterer in the history of Christ’s Church knows them, the question is settled forever. Besides, the frame work of the republican edifice in our nation is constructed on the model of Presbyterian Church Government.

We derive additional strength of faith in Christ as the covenant Head of our American people, from our great prosperity in all earthly blessings. No nation, not even Israel for seventy-four years after the conquest of Palestine, enjoyed so great prosperity. Our population has increased in that short period from about two and a half millions to more than twenty-three millions. The growth of the republic, especially westward, is wonderous. At the declaration of independence, there were but a few of the descendants of the British Covenanters west of the Allegheny mountains. Now, they are not less than twelve millions. They have in less than two generations subdued the forest, cultivated farms and built cities, from the city of Pittsburgh to the shores of the Pacific. Our trade covers every sea. Christ makes all nations tributary to our farmers, mechanics and manufacturers. There is no nation on earth, that in proportion to the number of people, has so many schools, academies and colleges; so many medical, law, military and divinity schools, as we have. It is indeed ever to be deplored, that nearly all these are corrupt. Our literary institutions are all heathen. But this is our sin which abuses all the Lord’s great goodness. Our internal commerce facilitated by steamers, turnpikes, canals and railroads, exceeds the examples of God’s goodness in other ages and nations. We have been signally victorious in three wars, and although the last was eminently iniquitous, yet it made a display of the vast physical force and military skill of the nation; such as awakened the admiration of the wicked world. Intelligence is being diffused among all ranks with the speed of lightning. "Many run to and fro and knowledge increases." No great nation ever afforded half the facilities for the diffusion of useful knowledge and gospel truth. All this is the doing of Christ the Lord, and it is wondrous in our eyes. Why is the little Island of Britain the home of the mightiest nation on the globe? Why is England a match for the world? Why is her Bible Society more efficient than all the others, in all nations ? Why is she incomparably the most learned nation on earth? Why is there more orthodoxy and christian practice in Britain than in all the other Protestant churches of the old world? The only answer is—she, like Israel of old, is nationally in covenant with Israel’s God. We must give God the glory, and trace our great mercies to the same covenant source. "We are the children of God’s servants’ seed."

The last, but not least argument fortifying our claim to a covenant relation with the God of our fathers, is that here are God’s witnesses. The only nations in which there is a church that does not give its power to the beast, are Britain and the United States. We have always recognised the covenants of our godly British ancestry as binding on us and on our seed forever. We have multiplied and grown, "through good report and bad report," unto a great people. We are spread abroad from Eastport to the mouth of the Oregon; from Chester, S.C. to Lake Superior. We have more ministers and licentiates, if not more people, than all our brethren in England, Scotland and Ireland. Why all this—but that we have been brought to this great New World, under the guidance of Messiah our King, to sound the great trumpet that the outcasts of our British Israel may return to Messiah, "from whom they have deeply revolted," and again rally under the flag of his covenant? Our descent, our public deeds, our earthly and wondrous prosperity, and our testimony, all, encourage us to persevere in efforts to enlighten the people of our nation in a knowledge of our covenant connection with the covenant God of our covenant fathers.


Young Men of the Divinity Class:—

You are assembled here this evening in the good providence of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, that you may be trained in his school, "to war a good warfare" for "his crown and covenant."

1. In order to do this efficiently, "love one another with a pure heart fervently." You are from parts of the Church far remote from each other, from Rochester, N.Y. to St. Louis, Mo., and have been educated in considerably diversified habits and manners, and though you all in good faith, we hope, believe the subordinate standards of Christ’s church, yet as there may be somewhat different modes of explaining them, there must be some forbearance exercised. It is an imperative duty "to forbear one another in love." You will be expected to cultivate Christian comity. Thus, in maintaining the covenant cause of your God in Christ, you will be "like a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots."

2. Look, in the prayer of faith to Christ who died and intercedes for you, that, by his good and free Spirit he may give you saving faith in vigorous exercise. Say, in the words of Christ’s disciples:—"Lord increase our faith." Pray for one another, one by one, that you may be knit to one another in love, by that which every joint supplieth, in the whole body which is fitly framed together." We are bound to Christ, and to one another, in the covenant of grace and in the covenant of our fathers. Hence, we have the most honorable of appellations on earth—Covenanters.

3. Be sure of success. God, who cannot lie, has promised us victory. "Five cities in the land of Egypt shall speak the language of Canaan."—of Covenanters. "Egypt shall vow a vow and perform it." This is mystical Egypt—Christendom. It is true, there is a huge host against us.—"But it is not of God to save by many or by few." "God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty." This is the long looked for, and earnestly prayed for 1848. "An end, the end is come." We hear now from afar, and will soon hear at home, the crash of failing empires that have waged war 1260 years against God’s covenant people. We hear the sounding of the wheels of Messiah as he conducts the chariot of salvation. "Let God arise and let all his enemies flee before him."
 

"My covenant if thy sons will keep,
And laws to them made known,
Their children then shall also sit,
Forever on thy throne."—AMEN.

Footnotes:

[1] See Olney’s Geography, New York, 1848; fifty-seventh edition, p. 56. [back]

[2] Olney, p. 630. [back]

[3] Allen’s Hist. of Am. Revo. vol. I, page 212. Marshall’s Life of Washington. [back]


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