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James Dodson

IN stating the doctrine of vows and religious covenants, the Synod, in their New Testimony, have proceeded upon principles different from those which have been laid down from the word of God by protestants, and which, when applied to the public covenants of this and other lands, instead of vindicating, condemn them in their proper form and matter, and greatly limit the extent of their obligation.

1. The definition given by the Synod of covenanting (even viewing it with reference to that species of it which they have in their eye), does not distinguish, explicit and formal covenants, from those engagements which are included in the public exercises performed in all Christian churches. It is said that ‘public religious covenanting is the deed of a number of church-members, in which they jointly and publicly profess, to renounce all hope of life from the covenant of works; to take hold of the covenant of grace, and to devote themselves to the Lord; and, in the strength of promised grace, engage faithfully to cleave to him, to hold fast his truths, to perform the various duties which they owe to God and man, in their respective stations and relations, and to strengthen one another’s hands in the work of the Lord.’[1] Now, what is said here, that is not included in public prayer and communicating, and in some forms of admission to public communion in Congregations often used; in which a number of church members jointly and publicly profess to renounce, &c. We may indeed argue from this consequentially, in support of the warrantableness and propriety of church-members making such professions and engagements in a separate, express, and formal deed. But as the matter is here stated, other denominations, charged with neglecting covenanting, can plead that they practise the duty according to all the extent of the Synod’s definition.[2] For, as to the formality of an oath, the Synod allow that it is ‘not essential to this duty;’—‘though (they add) it is generally most proper to accompany it.’ But to say, that an oath ought generally to accompany the exercise, as above described, is unjustifiable; as it would render oaths much more frequent, than either the scriptures or their nature and ends will warrant.

2. While the definition is in one view too general and indeterminate, it is in another too limited. It restricts religious covenanting to churches, and to men as under the evangelical covenant, instead of resting the duty upon the broad basis of the moral law, as applicable to mankind in all their various stations and relations. We readily grant that there are religious covenants which are peculiar to churches, and also, that duties peculiar to men in a gospel state can be performed by those only that know and profess the gospel. But the question is, Are these the only covenants of a religious kind which are warrantable and proper? And we apprehend that this question cannot be answered in the affirmative, without denying that they are founded in the light of nature and the moral law, the obligation of which cannot be limited to churches, or to the ecclesiastical character of those who are members of churches. It cannot be answered in the affirmative, without maintaining, that men and Christians have no concern with religion, and are incapable of contracting religious obligations, in any other character or capacity than that of church members.

Covenants, vows, and oaths, are not duly distinguished by the Synod. Though some religious covenants and promissory oaths be of the same nature with religious vows, yet they are not all of that kind. Covenants, leagues, promissory engagements and oaths, have a more extensive meaning and use. They may be entered into when particular occasions require, and special obligations may be contracted by them, in reference to things morally binding, or even merely lawful, and not previously obligatory. They may be justly termed religious, not only when they are immediately entered into with God as the party, in a profession of faith and obedience to the gospel, but also when matters of religion, in the large sense of the word, or things intimately connected with it, are the principle matter and object of them;[3] and when they are intended as a solemn pledge of unity and fidelity between man and man, the different parties respectively engaging or swearing in a common and important transaction. Nor is it improper, on some occasions of this kind, for the parties to engage to God for the performance of the respective parts, as this is the strongest pledge which they can give, and the firmest tie by which they can be bound to one another.

These covenants and oaths, according to the common doctrine of Moralists and Divines, do not derive their warrant from supernatural revelation, nor positive institution, but belong to natural law and religion; and thence their obligation arises. They have, accordingly, been in use among all nations, and under all forms of religion, true or false. But their warrant, and the proper use of them with reference to religion, are more clearly taught and corroborated by the authority of revelation. They are applicable to matters of pure revelation, and the peculiar concerns of churches; but they are not limited to these. They extend to all the subjects of the moral law, the different purposes connected with it, and to the various relations of men and societies under it. Families, colleges, hospitals, &c. are not churches; but they may all, as well as kingdoms, have moral and religious duties to discharge, and may be brought under explicit engagements to perform them. To restrict their warrant, their obligation, or the character in which they are binding, is to attempt to limit that law which extends to all men, and is "exceeding broad;" and, although made from a professed regard to the covenant of grace, is really derogatory to the authority of the great Lawgiver. The foundation on which oaths and vows are stated in our Confession of Faith may be seen by consulting chap. 22. See also Larger Catechism, quest. 108, 112, 113.

In laying down the doctrine of Covenanting, the Synod seem to overlook those religious Covenants which a people may have a call on particular occasions to enter into, with a special reference to the public state and interests of religion; and they view the duty merely with reference to our dealings with God about the salvation of our souls, and to such professions and engagements as are necessarily connected with that faith which interests in the covenant of grace, and which are made by all genuine believers. Of the propriety of such exercise, and of a joint and public profession of it, particularly as stated in the bond hitherto used in the Secession, we entertain no hesitation. To the doctrine taught by the Associate Presbytery, in their Act concerning the doctrine of Grace, we most cordially agree; in which, while all obedience is represented as founded in the law, the evangelical manner in which it is to be performed, as to principles, motives, ends, &c. is clearly stated; and, in which, while the distinction between God’s covenant of grace and our covenants of duty is maintained, the connection between them, and the influence which the former has upon the latter is particularly explained. We observe no such accuracy in the new statement given by the Synod; and the expunging of the phrase ‘COVENANT OF DUTY,’ from the new bond which they have adopted, gives ground to suppose that they are unfavourable to the distinction.[4]

But, although perfectly satisfied of the propriety of such professions as have a direct respect to the salvation of the soul, and of the place which these have in the Secession bond, we cannot admit that these must necessarily have a place in all religious covenants, and particularly in those bonds which are entered into with a special reference to a public cause, and which formally consists of express engagements relative to this. The grand reason why it is so strenuously urged, that the formality of religious covenanting lies in the professed renunciation of the covenant of works, and taking hold of the covenant of grace, is, that the duty may be represented as wholly ecclesiastical. This is the point which the Synod always keep in their eye, and to which every thing must bend. This they maintain, although at the expense of condemning approved examples of covenanting, both in scripture and the history of the church. It is undeniable that the word of God makes mention of religious covenants and vows, containing solemn engagements to particular duties, in which there are no such professions, or express declarations as the above. See Numb. 21:2, Ezra 10:3,4, Jer. 34:12. The same may be said of the public covenants of this and of other countries. Were these therefore legal, and essentially defective? The question, it ought always to be remembered, is not respecting the right and acceptable manner of performing the duty, but respecting its warrant and foundation, and that which necessarily constitutes its matter. It does not respect the character in which we are to view God, in all approaches unto, and dealings with him, such as enjoy the revelation of grace, must always view him according to his revealed and gracious character. In swearing an oath upon any occasion, a Christian is not to view him as au absolute God. "Thou shalt fear the Lord THY GOD, and serve him, and swear by his name," Deut. 6:13, 10:20. The reception of the covenant of grace is necessary to the acceptable performance of every moral duty, as well as of vowing and swearing to God; and we must "do all" things "in the name of the Lord Jesus," and in dependance upon his grace, Eph. 6:5-10, Col. 3:17-23. The evangelical manner of performing duties does not interfere with, nor alter their moral warrant and obligation, and determines nothing as to the characters in which they are incumbent and binding.

In vindicating those expressions in the New Testimony, by which religious covenanting is restricted to the character of church members, the Synod say, that they do not mean to deny ‘that vowing and swearing unto God is, in general, a duty founded on the law of nature: but the description given of covenanting, refers to public religious covenanting among Christians, which, like every other duty, ought to be performed in agreeableness to the directions of the word of God.’[5] That covenanting ‘ought to be performed in agreeableness to the directions of the word of God,’ who can doubt? And the Synod say, very properly, that, in this respect, it is on a level with ‘every other duty.’ But certainly this can be no proof, that it is ‘entirely an ecclesiastical duty;’ and consequently can be no vindication of the Synod’s doctrine, nor a sufficient answer to the objections made against it. Marriage ‘ought to be performed in agreeableness to the directions of the word of God;’ ‘and, Christians are bound to marry only in the Lord.’ But is marriage on this account an ecclesiastical duty, and is the marriage-vow incumbent on persons ‘in their character as members of the church of Christ?’ Magistracy ‘ought to be performed in agreeableness to the directions of the word of God;’ is it therefore an ecclesiastical ordinance, and is dominion founded in grace? What the Synod mean, when they admit that ‘vowing and swearing unto God is in general founded on the law of nature,’ it may be difficult to say; but certainly if they ‘are moral duties, which have their foundation in the law of nature, they cannot be entirely ecclesiastical,’ even when performed among Christians, and agreeably to the directions of scripture. Christianity does not set aside the relations under which we stand, nor relax the obligations by which we are bound to God, as our Creator and Governor, when it reveals him to us in the gracious character of Redeemer.

3. The Synod confound the terms religious and ecclesiastical, as if they were always of the same import. According to them there is no medium between civil and ecclesiastical: if a duty is not civil, then it must be ‘entirely ecclesiastical;’ and if it is not entirely ecclesiastical, then it must be ‘merely temporal,’ or civil. N. Test. p. 154, 162. But there are religious duties which are not ecclesiastical. An oath is a religious duty, and an act of worship, but is it therefore ‘entirely ecclesiastical?’ It may be applied either to matters civil or ecclesiastical, and according to its matter, it may be denominated a civil oath, or an ecclesiastical, but in itself it is properly religious. ‘A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath.’[6] The same may be said of swearing unto God, it is a religious duty; but it cannot be said to be ‘entirely ecclesiastical,’ unless when it is applied to things which peculiarly or exclusively belong to the church. Oaths, vows, and covenants, while they are religious in their nature, may bind men in their different characters, according to their matter and design, whether natural, civil, political, ecclesiastical, or domestic.

4. All that the Synod say upon the doctrine of public covenanting, agrees much better to the notion and plan of it admitted in many Independent churches, than with that which has been adopted in the Presbyterian church, either with or without the concurrence of civil authority. The Independents pleaded for some explicit form of a covenant, not on some special occasions only, but as necessary to the very being and constitution of a church, which Presbyterians in their writings opposed. A certain number of church members might, in this manner, form themselves into a church, possessing all ecclesiastical powers and privileges, independent of other churches. Their covenants they held to be purely ecclesiastical, originating in the consent of the people forming a particular congregation; yet neighbouring congregations, or, in their language, many neighbouring churches, might, by agreement, join in the same or similar covenant, and make the same profession. They made these church-covenants chiefly to consist in a professed acceptance of the covenant of grace, and in engaging to discharge duties towards one another as church members. No common authority, however, was acknowledged over these church members, or congregational churches voluntarily covenanting together, that might claim a right to require or enjoin such deeds upon them.[7]

The reader may compare both the language and the doctrine of the New Testimony with the above, and see how nearly they agree. In some instances the resemblance has already been pointed out: it may be traced also in the following. The Synod say, it is a deed of church members; but whether of many or few, whether organized into a society, with their governors or not, is not said: As to any public authority enjoining public covenants, though this hath usually been considered as of great moment in the question about the lawfulness or expediency, as well as the matter and occasion of them (especially when solemn oaths accompany them), they say nothing. The Confession of Faith is not chargeable with such a material omission. ‘A lawful oath (it says) being imposed by lawful authority, ought to be taken,’ chap. 22. sect. 2. according to the scriptures there quoted, 1 Kings 8:13, Neh. 13:25, Ezra 10:5. And an obligation arises from the interposition of such authority, distinct from that which the law of God imposes, or that which flows from the matter of them in themselves considered. Nay, the Synod expressly admit, that persons in some cases may warrantably enter into religious covenants, without being ‘under the direction of ecclesiastical courts, or as formerly met as a worshipping assembly:’ and as for courts, government, and assemblies of a civil nature, they put them entirely out of the question. They have found out, it seems, a middle or third way, in which these public deeds may be conducted and performed, belonging neither to church, nor state; and some of the most solemn and extraordinary exercises of the church (if extraordinary they admit them to be) may be performed without the inspection of its governors, and without a worshipping assembly! As they speak of these religious covenants of which they approve, as having their origin in the joint agreement of members in a particular congregation, so they represent them as being a common bond between ‘neighbouring congregations, or churches holding communion together, or in order to this communion;’ because it is warrantable for them so to join, if they please: which describes the state of sister congregations or churches owning no common government over them, whereby they may be considered as one church, as Presbyterial or National churches usually are. In the first draught of the Testimony (p. 137.) it was said, ‘In this manner (by covenanting) may particular churches be at first constituted.’

5. By their doctrine respecting covenanting, the Synod have condemned some of the most noted covenants, leagues, and oaths, respecting religion, which have been entered into in this and other Protestant countries. They distinguish covenants into two kinds, ‘civil and religious covenants.’ Religious covenanting is, they say, ‘entirely an ecclesiastical duty,’ in which those invested with civil power have no other concern—than as church members,’—who are to be viewed ‘as in their spiritual character devoting themselves and their seed to the Lord;’ accordingly such covenants ought to be confined to matters purely religious.[8] Again, ‘in a civil covenant (they say) we in a civil character, enter into or seal an obligation with respect to things merely temporal.’[9] Besides these covenants the Synod allow of no other.

Now, it may be safely said, that none of the public covenants which have been so famous in Europe since the period of the Reformation, answer either to the one or the other of those mentioned by the Synod. None of the bonds entered into by the Protestants of Scotland before the establishment of the reformed religion. Not the national covenant of Scotland. Not the solemn league of the three nations. Not the leagues and covenants entered into by the Protestant princes, states, and cities of Germany, of Switzerland, of the Low Countries, &c. That these were mere ecclesiastical deeds, in which civil rulers, or others in various secular stations and characters, who entered into them, had no other concern than other church members, and in which the covenanters were viewed in no other light than as an extensive church, none will say who is acquainted with them. Neither can it be said that they respected ‘things merely temporal;’ for reformation, or the maintenance and preservation of religion was their principal object, and the immediate design of entering into them. In the Leagues of Germany and the Netherlands there was a profession of the Protestant religion, which was the pledge of their union, as well as engagements to mutual assistance and defence in the preservation of their religion against common enemies.

In the preamble of the Solemn League and Covenant, these examples are expressly pleaded. ‘We have now at last, according to the commendable practice of these kingdoms in former times,[10] and the example of God’s people in other nations, after ‘due deliberation, resolved and determined to enter into a mutual and Solemn League and Covenant.’ By these examples was the taking of the Solemn League recommended.[11] They have always been viewed as religious covenants, and as a partial accomplishment of the predictions of scripture with respect to this matter; as appears from the writings of Presbyterians [12] and Seceders.[13]

The doctrine of the Synod is irreconcilable with the Solemn League and Covenant, and condemns it in its proper form, matter, and design. No one who reads it, or who is acquainted with the causes in which it originated, and the ends which it was intended to promote, can believe that it was a mere church deed, ‘entirely an ecclesiastical duty,’ and that the kingdoms, in entering into it, were to be viewed in no other light than that of ‘an extensive church, or churches holding communion with each other.’ It was intended to promote not only ‘the glory of God, and the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,’ but also ‘the honour and happiness of the king’s majesty, and the true public liberty, safety, and peace of the kingdoms,’ or as it is also expressed, the ‘common cause of religion, liberty, and the peace of the kingdoms.’ The impulsive cause of it was the deplorable, distressed, and dangerous state of the kingdoms, as well as the churches of Ireland, England, and Scotland. And the clauses relating to these great subjects were embodied and sworn in one oath and Covenant; the obligation of which deed has been owned by the soundest Presbyterians, and the best patriots in these kingdoms, and, in particular, has been solemnly avouched by Seceders.

It is in vain to pretend that matters purely religious ought to have been separated from those which were wholly civil and political, that two covenants ought to have been framed, one into which persons could have entered as church members, and the other as members of the state; and that the Synod acknowledge the obligation of the covenant with respect to ‘the religious reformation’ and ‘matters purely religious.’ All that is plausible, is neither solid nor true. For, in the first place, let such persons make this distinction in the matter of the covenant, and let them shew what engagements were purely religious, and what were wholly civil. Unless this be done, we may be excused from believing that our ancestors could have separated them; nor can we know what such persons mean, when they acknowledge the obligation of the covenant. It may be safely said that this cannot be pointed out as to one of the six articles of the league. For example, the first article contains an engagement ‘to endeavour the preservation of the reformed religion in the church of Scotland.’ Now, did not this refer to the political laws by which that religion was settled, and necessarily include the preservation of these? Did it not include an engagement to resist, even by force, all attempts violently to deprive Scotland of her religious profession and privileges? Accordingly, the covenanters engage to endeavour this preservation ‘in their several places and callings—against common enemies.’ The same remarks apply to the second article, as to the extirpation of popery, prelacy, superstition, &c. with the measures necessary for this, many of which were political as well as ecclesiastical. On the other hand, those articles in the league which related more immediately to the state of the kingdoms, were not wholly political or temporal; nor were they engrossed into it merely under that consideration, but as connected with and subordinate to the higher end, the defence and reformation of religion, and the settlement of a religious union and uniformity in the three kingdoms. The covenanters engaged ‘to preserve the rights and privileges of the parliaments;’ but this included ‘the defence of the true religion,’ and also its reformation, which the parliament of England had begun, and which was one ground of this quarrel between them and the king. They engaged to endeavour ‘the discovery of malignants;’ but these were persons who were enemies both to the religion and liberties of the kingdoms. They engaged to maintain the peace established between the kingdoms, but this was threatened and endangered by causes that were of a religious as well as political kind. Those who confine the obligation of the covenant to things ‘purely religious,’ would need to ascertain well what things are so; and perhaps it may be found that they do not hold the obligation of one article of it, as to some of those things which were immediately intended by those who framed and swore that oath.

But, secondly, although the distinction could be shewn between those parts of the covenant which are political and those which are religious, we cannot allow that our ancestors ought to have separated them: nor does it appear that it was practicable for them to have done so, in any joint and effectual appearance in behalf of these several interests, or against the public grievances and dangers then affecting them, when they were in many respects so closely and inseparably involved. In the providence of God they were joined together, and why should they have put them asunder? Those who were endeavouring to subvert the civil rights of the nation, were also enemies to religion and reformation and were using the same means to hinder the one and overturn the other. When the interests of nations, both religious and political, the privileges of churches and states are at stake, exposed to the same dangers, and having the same friends and foes, why should they not be conjoined in the same and why should not churches and states enter into, and swear such an oath and league? This doth not necessarily imply an improper confounding or blending of them. When religion and liberty are exposed to the same dangers, why should they not be maintained and defended by the same means, and why should not their friends associate, and solemnly pledge and bind themselves to stand by one another, and to discharge their duty, in the common cause, against common enemies? The preservation or reformation of religion is a great national concern, and the maintenance of a just and free government is a great blessing to the church at any time. Nor is it the first time that the danger into which a people have been brought of losing their civil privileges, has awakened them to a concern for asserting their religious. At the period referred to, it is well known that regal tyranny was so closely linked with prelatical dominion and persecution, with the interests of popery, superstition, and profaneness, that it was vain to attempt to repress the latter, without opposing the former, and without some considerable alteration in the Ecclesiastico-political constitution of England and Ireland. All these considerations combined in demanding such a league as was sworn.[14]

When the Associate Presbytery engaged in the renovation of the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms, they did this in a bond suited to their circumstances. And they did so with the greatest propriety: As they existed as an ecclesiastical society, did not constitute any distinct part of the nation in a political view, and had no immediate connection with the civil powers, as well as because the state of the public was very different, it would have been improper in them to have drawn up their bond in the same form with either the National Covenant or the Solemn League. But did they do this, because they thought the form of the national covenants improper? By no means. Did they do so, because they thought that the mixed form of the Solemn League, as including civil as well as religious things, was chargeable with sinful blending of matters which ought to have been separated? Not at all. Let us hear their own words. ‘The Presbytery has not the LEAST objection against the OLD FORM of our covenants, as VERY SUITABLE unto the time wherein they were framed; they only plead for alterations of the form suitable unto our present circumstances,’[15] Words cannot be plainer. The form of the old covenants was suited to their season; the form of the Secession bond was suited to its season. Accordingly, when they give a reason why they did not introduce into their bond such clauses, with reference unto civil matters, as were in the former covenants, the reason turns entirely upon their present circumstances. They ‘agreed, That it was not suitable to their present circumstances to blend civil and ecclesiastic matters in the oath of God, in renewing our covenants; because that the cognizance of civil affairs belongs not properly to them as a church-indicatory.’[16] The same thing they illustrate afterwards when they say, ‘the plain case is, The covenants were entered into, and frequently renewed, by the interposition of the civil authority as well as the ecclesiastic. But as there is no interposition at present of civil authority, in the renewing of the covenants, so the Presbytery reckon it improper for them to meddle in these that are of a civil nature (or to apply the civil part of our covenants—as an oath of allegiance to the present king and government), and therefore they could do nothing this way in their accommodation of the covenants to the present time.’[17]

But although the Associate Presbytery reckoned the cognizance of civil affairs, as such, incompetent to a church judicatory at any time, and did not judge it suitable to their circumstances to introduce matters of this kind into their bond, that were suited only to a different state of things, or to apply the civil part of our covenants as a formal oath of allegiance to the present government (for it is of this that they immediately speak [18]); yet it is not a fact which is asserted by the Synod in their Narrative, p. 53. that, ‘They so framed their engagement to duties as to exclude every thing but matters purely religious.’ Did not the Associate Presbytery, both in their testimony and other public deeds, approve and bear witness for many political laws passed in favour of the reformed religion? Did they not declare the deed of civil constitution, as settled in the reforming period, morally unalterable? Do they not declare, that they bear witness for the civil reformation as well as the ecclesiastical? Did they not also testify against the parliamentary acts, overturning the reformation, and against many other laws and political managements, confessed as evils in the Acknowledgement of Sins? Will any person, who understands the meaning of words, say, that these were ‘matters purely religious?’ Yet, as the bond reduplicates upon the Acknowledgment of Sins, the covenanter engaged to testify against the sinful laws and managements, Notwithstanding all their refining, the Synod have not yet been able to purge their new bond, so as to ‘exclude from it every thing but matters purely religious.’ It must undergo another process, before it can stand the touchstone of their own doctrine. Indeed, there is great evidence that some of the favourite phrases that are used on this subject are not understood by those who have them continually in their mouths, that they are often, vox, et praeterea nihil.

5. The doctrine of the Synod greatly limits the obligation of the public covenants of this land. We have seen that it does so, as to their matter; it does so also as to their subjects, and the character in which they are binding. As the Synod describes religious covenanting to be ‘entirely an ecclesiastical duty,’ and insist that ‘those invested with civil power have ‘no other concern with it, than as church-members;’[19] so they consider the National Covenant and Solemn League as mere church-deeds, and rest their obligation solely upon the sameness of the church, and ‘the relation between parents and children,’ which ‘the exhibition of God’s covenant recognizes.’[20] They pay no regard to the public character and capacity in which they were enjoined, sworn, promoted, and frequently ratified, and to the permanency of the national and political state of the three kingdoms; and have intentionally yielded up and discarded the strong argument which arises from these in support of the national and perpetual obligation of these covenants, which has been used by Seceders and other Presbyterians. Accordingly, in the account which they give of these covenants and their obligation, they speak vaguely, and in general expressions, which convey no definite meaning as to their extent. The National Covenant, they say, ‘was sworn and subscribed by the king, Jan. 28, 1581; and in a few weeks after, by people of all ranks in the nation. Thus, the friends of a Covenanted Reformation not only made a public profession of the truth, but avouched this profession with all the solemnity of an oath.’[21] Again, ‘The Solemn League and Covenant of the three nations was framed by the friends of reformation.’[22] And in the new Acknowledgment of Sins, the obligation of this famous League and Covenant of the three kingdoms dwindles down to an obligation upon some persons. ‘Afterwards (say the Synod), by the Solemn League and Covenant, some of all ranks in the three kingdoms engaged, &c.’[23] It is in this manner that the Synod acknowledge, and bear testimony ‘for the continued obligation of the Covenants of our reforming ancestors—upon persons of all ranks in these lands, and their posterity!’

How different is this from the account given of the obligation of these covenants in the original Testimony and former deeds of the Secession! In these they are declared to be binding upon the nation as well as the church. They say, that ‘the whole land stands indispensably bound and obliged by the most solemn covenant-engagements;’ that, by the National Covenant ‘this kingdom made a national surrender of themselves, and bound and obliged both themselves and their posterity;’ that the Solemn League was ‘a giving up of all these kingdoms;’ that the ‘General Assembly of this church reckoned this land bound and obliged by the Solemn League and Covenant; this land declared they looked upon this oath as nationally binding upon them,’—‘our engagement therein is not only national but personal; (i.e., though the nation in its public capacity should disown the obligation, and refuse to perform, yet every covenanter was bound also individually) that ‘the whole land was solemnly sworn,’—‘the whole nation hath given openly up with their solemn covenant engagements,’—‘the sins of this whole covenanted church and land;’[24] with many other expressions ‘of the same kind, declaratory of the obligation of the covenants on the body political and ecclesiastical, as well as on individuals.’

The Synod only plunge themselves into inconsistencies, by an anxious wish to appear to retain their former testimony as to the obligation of the National Covenants, and to continue the use of certain phrases on this subject, while the sentiment which gave meaning to them is discarded, and while their own declarations are at war with themselves. Sometimes it is pretended, that the Synod maintain the obligation of these covenants upon the nations, because the greater part did swear them: but then it turns out, that what the Synod holds is, that only ‘some of all ranks’ were bound by one of them. Sometimes the Solemn League must be divided into two parts, (1 Kings 3:26,27); and the civil part is allowed to have been obligatory, strictly and properly in a national view: but then the fact is, that both parts constituted one deed, which was entered into by the nation and its representatives, who sware to God, as well as to one another, equally with reference to all its parts, which deed was publicly ratified in the same form; so that one part of it could not be nationally binding, unless the whole was so. Sometimes the Synod give no judgment as to the civil part of that covenant; at other times, they are ‘of the same judgment with the Associate Presbytery,’ who, without any reserve, declared that it was, ‘for the matter of it, just and warrantable,’ (Matth. 9:16,17). At one time they declare, that they, in ‘acknowledging the obligation of the covenants of our ancestors make no exception as to any part of their matter;’ yet, as if conscious that they had gone too far, it is immediately added, with singular incongruity, ‘according to the limitations expressed in the ‘Narrative and Testimony.’[25] (N. Testimony, page 159). Thus the reader is sent through the whole Narrative and Testimony to find out the extent in which the Synod acknowledge the obligation of these deeds; at the very time that he was taught to expect a precise determination of the point.

Those who refuse the national obligation of the covenants, endeavour to set this in opposition to their ecclesiastical obligation; as if those who maintained the former denied or were obliged to overlook the latter. Nothing however can be more evidently unfounded. We maintain that the nation and the church entered jointly into these covenants, and that both are bound by them; that they were approved, ratified, and promoted by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and sworn by them and the body of the people under them; and therefore are binding in both characters. And we think that this view of the extent of their obligation accords with the nature and design of the covenants themselves; is warranted by the moral grounds on which they were founded; by the common principles of social public obligations; by approved examples of religious covenants mentioned in scripture; and that it is agreeable to the common sentiments which Presbyterians have entertained respecting them. Each of these would admit of large illustrations, which we cannot here propose to introduce.

Was it only in the character of church-members that our ancestors could swear, in the National Covenant, that they did ‘detest and refuse the usurped authority of that Roman Antichrist upon the scriptures, upon the kirk, the civil magistrate, &c.?’ Was it only as church-members that they could swear to defend the doctrine and discipline of the kirk according to their vocation and power? Was it only as church-members that they could swear to defend the king’s person and authority, and not to suffer themselves to be divided or withdrawn from this blessed and loyal conjunction? Similar questions may be put as to all the articles of the Solemn League and Covenant.

The general grounds of the duty are a foundation sufficiently broad for the national obligation of such covenants. As vowing and swearing are moral duties, founded in the light of nature, and more clearly taught in scripture;[26] so nations and kingdoms, in their corporate and public capacity, are under the moral government of God, capable of the obligations of the moral law, and bound to do homage unto him and promote his worship.[27] Shall nations be held capable of coming under obligations to one another; and shall we suppose that they are incapable of binding themselves to the common Lord, more especially for defending, maintaining, and promoting the cause of religion among them? When God is pleased to make known the true religion to any nation and to set up the ordinances of his worship among them; or when he has restored these precious privileges to them, after they have been deprived of them, what shall hinder them from entering into a national vow and covenant, as an expression of their gratitude and homage, to bind themselves more strictly to his service, in which they shall engage, mutually and solemnly, to preserve this invaluable treasure, to subordinate all their secular interests, laws, and administrations, to the advancement of this great end? And if their religious and civil privileges are, in any period, at stake, is it not their duty to unite in such a solemn bond for their maintenance; and will not such vows and oaths be obligatory upon them individually and collectively, politically and ecclesiastically? In this manner did the people of Israel act; in this manner does the scripture prophesy that nations would act under the New Testament; in this manner have Christian nations acted, especially since the sera of the Reformation from popery; and it will not be easy to shew that their practice was not fully consistent with reason, the word of God, and the Christian economy.[28]

The covenants of Israel, which have been viewed by Presbyterians and Seceders, as moral, and exemplary under the New Testament, were entered into, and obligatory, in a national way. Such was the covenant mentioned in Deut. 19. as appears from the account of the persons who entered into it, as well as from the national judgments denounced against its violation:—"Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel; your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: that thou shouldst enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day," ver. 10-12. The examples of covenanting in the days of Joshua, chap. 24; of Asa, 2 Chron. 15.; of Joash, 2 Kings 11; 2 Chron. 23; of Hezekiah, 2 Chron. 19; of Josiah, 2 Kings 23; of Ezra, chap. 10.; and of Nehemiah, chap. 9:38. and 10:1-29. were of the same kind. The nation, in its different ranks and orders of men, entered into these covenants, and the rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, acted an eminent part, in their stations, in promoting them. With these examples, the doctrine of the Synod will never accord. ‘It has been seen (say they) that religious covenanting is entirely an ecclesiastical duty. Therefore, those invested with civil power have no other concern with it, than as church-members.’[29] Wherever this ‘has been seen’ or discovered, certain it is, that it cannot be learned from the greater number of instances in the word of God, which flatly contradict the assertion. And before we can believe that the practice of Israel, in this matter, affords no example to Christian nations, we must see better reasons than what have yet been produced, to prove that their conduct was not moral but typical.[30]

Christian nations are under the moral law, as well as the Jewish nation was, are bound by it to acknowledge him; and, as he has favoured them with a revelation of his will, and a dispensation of divine ordinances, they are capable of contracting such obligations, with respect to these, as result from the law of God.[31] The predictions of the word of God with respect to the New Testament, intimate that cities and nations should join themselves to the Lord, and attest their allegiance and homage, by vowing and swearing unto him, Isa. 19:18-21. Zech. 2:11. Rev. 11:15.—predictions which, not excluding other instances, received a very striking accomplishment in the public and solemn covenants, oaths, and vows, by which the Reformation was accompanied and promoted in this and other Protestant nations.

The view which we have given of the public covenants of Britain, in their nature and obligation, is the same with that which has all along been entertained by their friends in the three kingdoms, since the period of their formation. We shall here produce only a few of the numerous proofs of this which are at hand. The Assembly of Divines at Westminster, in their exhortation to the taking of the Solemn League, assert, that it is substantially the same with that vow and solemn protestation which had been formerly made by the parliament of England, and, by their authority, throughout the kingdom. ‘What is there almost in this covenant (say they) which was not, for substance, either expressed, or manifestly included in the solemn protestation of May 5, 1641, wherein the whole kingdom stands engaged until this day? the sinful neglect whereof doth, as we may justly fear, open one flood-gate the more to let in all these calamities upon the kingdom, and cast upon it a necessity of renewing covenant, and of entering into this.’ For understanding this, it must be observed, that the Parliament, and particularly the House of Commons, on different occasions, when religion was endangered by the introduction of superstitious observances, Arminian doctrines, and Popish plots, entered into a solemn protestation and promise, in which they avouched their adherence to the Protestant religion, rejected the contrary errors, and engaged to maintain the former, and oppose the latter. One of these was made in the year 1628.[32] The other in 1641, mentioned above, was more full and solemn; it originated in the House of Commons, was sworn by the House of Lords, and by their joint authority throughout the nation.[33] A similar oath was, on the 18th of August, sworn by the Parliament of Scotland, and appointed to be afterwards taken by all members, before they should be permitted to vote.[34] Again, in June 1643, on occasion of the discovery of a treacherous plot against the Parliament and city of London, a solemn vow and covenant was sworn by both Houses.[35] These deeds were all previous to the Solemn League and Covenant, which was framed upon the same principles, and for similar purposes, although more extensive, both as to its matter, and the solemn, public, and national manner in which it was enacted, sworn, and repeatedly ratified.

The judgment of Mr. Crofton, one of the Presbyterian ministers of England, may be produced in the name of all the rest, as he has their concurrence to his opinion. In support of his opinion, that the Solemn League and Covenant was ‘public and national, binding the power and body politic of the nation,’ he produces the following unanswerable arguments. ‘First, the matter therein covenanted is public and national, relating to the kingdom under its civil, religious, and reformed consideration and capacity, being the reformation and defence of religion under a national profession, &c. 2. These matters, and the form of security to them, were consulted, debated, and concluded by two distinct nations—and that in their most public capacities, &c. 3. The terms, shewing the capacity in which it was sworn, are—national, &c. 4. The end and scope of the covenant was real, national, &c. 5. This covenant was sworn by the nation or kingdom. (1.) Collectively, by the body of the nations, regularly assembled and constituted, in the most full and complete assembly—The Parliament, consisting of Lords and Commons, and that in their public capacity, as a Parliament, did, as the representative body of the kingdom, swear this covenant, which, as a further testimony that it was a National Covenant, they caused it to be hanged up in all churches, and in their own house, as a compass whereby (in conformity to right reason and religion) to steer their own debates, and to dictate to all that should succeed into that place and capacity, what obligation did before God lie upon the body of the nation. (2.) it was universally sworn by the people of this kingdom—and that, not at their own will and giddy humour, but at the command and by the authority of Parliament. (3.) The Solemn League and Covenant hath been ratified and rendered national—and that by a series of multiplied acts.’ From these ‘public considerations and palpable engagements made by the people of England, as a kingdom and political body, professing the Reformed religion,’ he concludes, that ‘it is a public national covenant, binding all the persons of this nation (that swear or swear not personally), and our posterity after us; and all that shall succeed unto the public places and politic capacities of this kingdom, to preserve and pursue the things therein promised.—Least you or any others (adds he) should think, this quality of the Solemn League and Covenant, as public and national, to be my own notion, and private particular fancy; give me leave to tell you and them, I can produce more than six hundred ministers (most of whom are yet living in the kingdom of England), who under their hand have testified their apprehensions of it under the same notion.’[36]

Mr. Brown of Wamphray, in his Apology for the Church of Scotland, may safely be viewed as expressing the sentiments of the ministers of that church; and he maintains the obligation of the National Covenant of Scotland, and the League of the three kingdoms, upon the same broad principles, and to the same extent with Mr. Crofton. We shall not repeat these, nor his illustrations, but content ourselves with quoting his conclusion. ‘These oaths (says he) being regal oaths, parliamentary oaths, and national oaths and covenants, they must be covenants perpetually obliging; so that as long as Scotland hath a king or a parliament; yea though there should be none of those, this obligation would stand, because mutato capite, maneret idem corpus, the subject would be permanent; and therefore the faith of Scotland being engaged, so long as Scotland is Scotland, the engagement standeth, and will not be dissolved.—The public faith of Scotland being engaged by all persons in all capacities, as long as there are any Scotchmen to succeed in these capacities the obligation standeth.’[37] Such also were the sentiments of Presbyterians about the time of the Revolution. ‘The binding force of these engagements (says Principal Forrester), appears in the subjects they affect, as (1.) Our church in her representatives, and in their most public capacity; the solemn assemblies in both nations. (2.) State representatives, and parliament. Thus all assurances are given that either civil or ecclesiastical laws can afford; and the public faith of church and state is plighted with inviolable ties: so that they must stand, while we have a church or state in Scotland. Both as men and as Christians, as members of church and state, under either a religious or civil consideration, we stand hereby inviolably engaged: and not only representatives, but also the incorporation of church and state are under the same.’[38]

When Mr. Glass began, about the year 1725, to oppose national covenanting, and national churches, as inconsistent with the spirituality of Christ’s kingdom,[39] (for which he was afterwards censured by theca judicatories of the national church), a number of the ministers of the church of Scotland distinguished themselves by writing in defence of our covenants, all of whom vindicated them upon the principles above stated. The sentiments of Mr. Willison of Dundee, who was a strenuous opponent of Mr. Glass, have been already quoted.[40] "What should hinder (says another writer of that period), the members of a nation, commonwealth, or kingdom, who are at the same time members of a church, to enter into a covenant with God, to obey him as Christians in their several stations, to maintain truth of doctrine and purity of ordinances as a church, and also to preserve their rights, privileges, and liberties as a commonwealth, at the same time? May not this be done without sinfully blending the church and commonwealth?—Only here he (Mr. Glass) should know and notice, that it is not a covenant purely ecclesiastic, nor purely civil, but a general covenant, wherein persons of all sorts do join, yet each in his own station.’[41]—‘As for its being a church-covenant (says a third writer), I do not understand how this notion of the author’s will suit therewith, it being not simpliciter ecclesiastic, but rather a national promissory oath, required and imposed by the legislative power on the subjects of those three nations.’[42]

Such also are the views which Seceders have entertained respecting these covenants, and their obligation. While they pleaded the lawfulness and duty of their renewal of them in a bond suited to their ecclesiastical capacity, and vindicated covenanting in this view,[43] they, at the same time, approved of ‘the old form of the covenants,’ as adapted to the circumstances of our ancestors, and maintained their obligation, in the most extensive sense, upon the nation and church. ‘The Solemn League and Covenant (says Mr. Moncrieff)—sworn both by Scotland and England—was a lawful and laudable association of these kingdoms, for promoting true religion, for preferring the glory of God, the increase of Christ's kingdom, to all things in the world, and subordinating all things thereto, and to the will of God revealed in his word. It was a professed subjection of the three nations to Christ, &c. Now this oath and vow being so lawful, laudable, and warrantable, it is certainly binding on us, whether we come under it in our own persons or not; as much as the oath made by Joshua, and the princes of the congregation of Israel, to the Gibeonites, was binding upon their posterity.—Nations continue to subsist in their posterity; and so national vows are binding on posterity.’[44] ‘Our solemn national vows and engagements to the Most High (says Mr. Mair), are not only practically broken by particular persons; not only publicly and nationally broken—but, what shall we say! even attacked, reproached, and condemned, by some of those whose work and duty it is to hold the crown on Christ’s head, and maintain his royalty, and plead our allegiance to him in this land.’—That nations may warrantably enter into vows and covenants, he proves, ‘(1.) from scripture-promises concerning New Testament times; (2.) from the moral nature of the duty; (3.) from the nature of that society which we call a nation.—We may here (says he) consider a nation distributively, for every particular member of a nation, or the generality of them. 2. Collectively, as the nation representative, viz. the rulers of the nation, as representing and acting in the name of those under their charge, and in their station above others where they are. And in each of these capacities, it is the duty of a nation to vow and engage unto the Lord.[45] Mr. Gellatly, one of the first ministers missioned by the Synod to America, has decidedly expressed the same sentiment. Persons (says he) do but thresh the water, in attempting to loose the three lands on earth from the obligation of these vows, till they document, by good proof, on which the consciences of men may safely rest, that God has loosed them in heaven; lest he that sits there laugh at, and hold in derision such vain attempts.—We find it is a maxim of the English law, that a society dieth not. Church and state, who entered into these vows were, and as yet, (the Lord knows how long) are not extinct. Mr. Forrester, late Principal of the college of St. Andrews, handles this point so well by rational arguments, supported by scripture, that I shall only lay before the reader the heads of his argumentation.’[46] Upon which he adds an extract, including the words which we have already quoted from that author (p. 191.); strongly expressive of the obligation of the covenants on the body politic and ecclesiastical. Our covenants, National and Solemn League (says Mr. Morison), ‘were National Vows. The National Covenant was frequently sworn by almost all the people of Scotland. The Solemn League was sworn by persons of all ranks in Scotland, England, and Ireland. The kingdom of Scotland went most voluntarily into it. It was taken by both houses of parliament in England; by a goodly number of the nobility; by the Westminster assembly; by the city of London, by a great part of the ministry; and by considerable numbers through the whole kingdom. This made it a national oath, or vow. The public faith was hereby plighted, for a genuine and thorough reformation, in the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of the house of God. Now, you know, when the public faith is given to any neighbouring kingdom, for standing true to certain articles of peace and friendship; it is, in all equity, judged to be binding on every individual in the nation, as in the oath sworn by the princes of Israel to the Gibeonites; Just so here; the Solemn League being a plighting the public faith to God, it must be binding on all, Deut. 29:14,15. And as nations continue to subsist in their posterity; so national vows must be binding on posterity: We are still the same kingdom; and therefore the Solemn League, being a national vow, must be binding on us as well as it was on the very persons who swore it.’[47]

The sentiments which the Synod have now adopted respecting covenanting, and points connected with it, and which they have embodied into their new deeds and terms of communion, are substantially the same with the sentiments of a number, both ministers and people, who, at different periods, have deserted the cause of the Secession, or been censured by its judicatories on account of them. In particular, Mr. Scott of Dundee and Mr. Arthur of Dumbarrow, for stating and refusing to retract a paper of objections, chiefly directed against the covenants as national, and against the magistrate’s power about religion, were suspended from the ministry; and, for persisting in the maintenance of this cause, Mr. Scott was afterwards deposed by the Synod. These principles are not the less inconsistent with the cause of the covenanted Reformation, and of the Secession, because they are now adopted by the majority of the Synod, or because, by the prejudice of authority, artful glosses, and general ambiguous declarations, they endeavour to persuade the world that they are consistent. The extracts at the foot of the page will shew that the views, objections, topics of argument, and declamation, and even modes of expression, which were adopted by Mr. Scott, are the very same which are now embraced by the Synod, and employed by the friends of their New Testimony.[48]

This is no speculative question, but a practical point of deep and serious consideration. If ever oaths and covenants were binding upon any nation or kingdom, this kingdom must be bound: never were covenants entered into, never were oaths sworn, with greater formality and solemnity, nor more expressly and repeatedly ratified and approved by all authorities in a land. Have we not reason to conclude, that all attempts to fritter down, explain away, and limit the obligation of these covenants, by distinctions invented after the solemn pledges had been given, unwarranted by scripture, and contrary to the common sentiments of mankind with respect to lawful oaths and covenants, must be highly displeasing to that MAJESTY whose name was invoked, and whose honour and interests were immediately concerned in the transactions? For our part, we have protested, and continue to protest against such doctrine, as calculated to harden those who have lost all sense of these engagements, to obliterate or weaken remaining impressions of them upon the minds of others, and to hasten the judgments of God upon our land; and we feel a satisfaction in having exonered our consciences in this matter, which more than compensates for all the obloquy with which we have been loaded.



[1] New Testimony, p. 151. 152.

[2] Mr. Hutchison of St Ninians, who was an enemy to that Covenanting which had been practised by presbyterians and in the Secession, allows all that is contained in the, definition given of Covenanting by the Synod, and pleads that it is practised by his connections and other denominations of Christians. ‘All gospel-worship (says he) is a vow essentially and materially. Gospel-worship in all the parts of it is instituted by God, and by his sacred authority, binds all Christians. And this profession, as Christians, clearly implies an acknowledgment of God, in his nature, truth, ordinances, and laws, according to the revelation of these great objects in his word. The church catholic, or a particular church, is just a greater or less body of men, publicly owning God, professing the belief of his word, their obligations to obey his authority. And such a profession fairly implies a dedication of themselves to God and his service, and a promise to do his will, which is all that is essential in a vow. All true gospel-worship, then, includes in it avow, materially and essentially. I add, that several parts of gospel-worship contain a formal vow. Prayer, public, private, and secret, contains a formal vow, for therein all who rightly perform this duty, solemnly profess their dependence on God in Christ, for all that they have, or expect; for all the blessings of time and eternity; and that, by his grace, they will be his devoted servants, and under law to him. What is this but a vow in the most formal sense? All those who take a seat at the Lord’s table, in the most solemn and formal manner, avow the Lord to be their God. By partaking of the consecrated symbols of bread and wine, they openly declare themselves the children of God, and the disciples of Jesus, and under all the sacred obligations of Christianity. This is vowing in the most proper sense of the word: Nor is there a single branch of divine worship, which does not include in it a vow either material or formal. It follows dearly from the above doctrine, that vows are not occasional, but stated duties. They are just as stated as any branch of divine worship; for they are essential in the entire worship of God, and in every branch of worship under every dispensation of the divine will.—Those who join in the public worship of the sanctuary, in prayer, praise, hearing, baptism, and the holy supper, vow unto God as really, and as publicly as any can do on any particular occasion that men have agreed on for public vowing.—Other Christian societies vow to God as really and formally as they do.’—Hutchison’s Animadversions on two Pamphlets, p. 104, 105, 106.

[3] According to the maxim, Religiosa esse que religioni adhaerent.

[4] The early writers of the Secession were very careful in distinguishing between the covenant of grace, together with the manner in which sinners come to be instated in it, and our covenant of duty; well aware that the freedom of divine grace depended much upon this distinction. ‘We remark (says Mr. Moncrieff) that the oath of God which we are to enter into is no; the covenant of grace, but it is a covenant of duty and gratitude; and all that have taken hold of the covenant of grace are obliged to devote themselves to the Lord in a covenant of duty.—By our believing the promise of God in his word, and our trusting in the person of Christ, who is to be believed upon in the Gospel of the grace of God, we are united to the Lord Jesus Christ, the covenant head, and thereby we are personally entered into the covenant of grace.—Upon the back of out believing the promises, and trusting on the person of Christ, by which we are personally entered into the covenant, there doth necessarily follow an absolute consent to take Christ for our husband, Head, and Lord, &c.’—Moncrieff’s Practical Works, vol i. p. 227, 247.

More lately, however, there has been a departure from this doctrine, and covenanting has been represented sometimes as the restipulation, sometimes as the acceptance of the covenant of grace. Thus, under the notion of making covenanting altogether evangelical, it is converted into an exercise really legal—The Member of Synod who drew up the New Bond has expressed his sentiments upon the subject in the most plain and decided terms: ‘All acceptable covenants (says he) are neither more nor less than an acceptance of God’s covenant of grace. We neither consider our covenant of duties as a distinct covenant by itself, nor as precisely the same thing with the covenant of grace; what we say is, our covenanting is the same thing with our acceptance of the covenant of grace. We enter into no covenant, but the covenant of grace. Cursed be all that religious covenanting that amounts to any thing more than an explicit acceptance of God’s covenant.’—Young’s Sermons on Covenanting.

‘They (the Israelites), in their consent to this covenant (says another writer), as far as they acted according to the proper design of it, prefigured the church of Christ under the New Testament, in her cordial acceptance of the covenant of grace, and her engagement to be the Lord’s. For even the covenant of grace requires, on the part of believers, a restipulation as to the performance of duty. Such language, to some, has a legal sound. But there is nothing legal in our engaging, with all possible solemnity, to walk in God’s ways, and to keep his commandments. Our acceptance of the covenant of grace necessarily implies such an engagement. When God promises to be to us "a God:" he requires of us that we be to him "a people:" Then only can we be chargeable with legality, when we enter into such an engagement in our own strength, or view our obedience as a condition of our enjoyment of the blessings of this gracious covenant.’—Jamieson’s Use of Sacred History, vol. i. p. 358, 359.

[5] N. Testimony, p. 155.

[6] Confession of Faith, Chap. 22. sect. 5.

[7] These points will be found particularly discussed on both sides, in the following tracts, Church-Government and Church-Covenant discussed. An apology of the Churches in New-England for Church-Covenant or a discourse touching the Covenant between God and men, and especially concerning Church-Covenant; that is to say, the Covenant which a company do enter into when they become a Church; and which a particular person enters into when he becomes a member of a Church. Both published, or republished, by the noted sectary Hugh Peters, London 1643. See also a brief Narration of some Church courses, in the Churches lately erected in N. England, London 1644. Hooker’s survey of Church Discipline, chap. 4. &c. Rutherford, Baillie, and others, against the Independents.

[8] N. Testimony, p. 53, 154, 159, 162.

[9] N. Testimony, p. 154.

[10] By ‘the commendable practice of these kingdoms in former times’ there is a reference to what had been done not only in Scotland, but also in England, both in the League between that country and Scotland, about the time of the Spanish Armada, the oath of association for maintaining the protestant religion and defending the queen’s person; with the vows and protestations at different times taken by the parliament and body of the nation.

[11] As it is acceptable to God, so have we for it the precedent and example, not ‘only of the people of God of old, of the Reformed churches of Germany and the Low-Countries, but of our own noble and Christian progenitors in the time of the danger of religion; which is expressed in the covenant itself.’—Mr. Henderson’s Speech at subscribing the Covenant, 25th September, 1643.

[12] Brown’s Apologetical Relation, p. 146, 148, 383, 384. Review of a paper written against our National and Solemn League and Covenant; by a minister of the church of Scotland, p.108, 2d edit. and ‘An Essay to prove the perpetual obligation of the National Covenant, in a letter from a lover of the Covenanted Reformation,’ also a minister of the church of Scotland, printed anno 1727, p. 43, 44.

[13] Moncrieff’s Works, vol. ii. p. 62. Morison’s Present Duty, p. 61.

[14] ‘Some people, it may be, will wish, that the civil and religions parts of our Covenants, particularly of the Solemn League, had been made two distinct and separate oaths.—But people are in extreme hazard of mistaking the measures of others, unless they carefully advert to their circumstances, and consider themselves as in their stead. The objection, it is apprehended, proceeds upon a misapprehension of the state of matters in those days, and foolish conceit of being wiser than those venerable Patriots whom God honoured to be the deliverers of the church and nation from impending ruin. On a sober consideration of their situation, it is not easy to conceive how they could have separated them. They were in danger of losing their religion. How? Through invasions made on their privileges as good subjects. Their religion was ready to be swallowed up in the whirlpool of tyranny.—So that it really does not appear practical for them to have done otherwise than they did, without betraying palpable indifferency about what was (as it infinitely well deserved to be) dearer to them than all things else.’—Morison’s Present Duty, p. 389, 390.

[15] Display, vol. i. p. 268.

[16] Ibid, p. 258.

[17] Ibid, p. 273.

[18] See Display, vol. i. p. 258, with Mr. Gib’s note, and p. 273.

[19] New Testimony, p. 162.

[20] Ibid, p. 157.

[21] Ibid, p. 19.

[22] Ibid, p. 29.

[23] Ibid p. 219.

[24] Display, vol. i. p. 53, 56, 59, 60, 61, 227, 232, 247.

[25] The doctrine of making ‘no exception to any part according to limitations,’ is akin to that which was advanced by certain writers of the church of England, who maintained that ‘the church has a right in itself to be absolutely obeyed, upon conditions and limitations;’ and that there is ‘an indispensable obligation upon the subjects of Christ, to an absolute obedience to the authority of the church in some instances.’ Upon which a lively writer remarks, ‘When I meet with the conditions upon which the absolute is founded, and the dispensation-instances of indispensable authority, I immediately say with myself—may I have to do with such as Bellarmine, or any who know what they would be at? I despair of coming at the state of the controversy with such writers as these, who manage indeed, as if they had an absolute authority to talk nonsense, with due limitations and restrictions.—Occasional Paper, vol. ii. numb. 7.

[26] Gib’s Display, vol. i. p. 354 355. Morison’s Present Duty, p. 20, 21.

[27] ‘As every individual depends on God, in a personal capacity; so must every people, in a public capacity. It is God who raises up kingdoms, preserves them, and gives them all the blessings they enjoy. Consequently, they ought to reckon themselves his; and are bound to recognise this his title unto them solemnly, in a public capacity. Nor is this their acknowledgment of him proportioned to their obligations to him unto whom they owe their all, unless it is as explicit as can be; which it cannot be, without solemn covenanting on proper occasions. God is the universal sovereign. Kings are his subjects. Kingdoms are like so many individuals in his universal empire. All kingdoms are infinitely more subject to him than any subjects can be to their earthly king. All move at his pleasure. Even an heathen could see this: Dan. 4:34,35.’—Morison’s Present Duty, p. 21, 22.

[28] ‘I know (says Mr. D. Wilson) it is objected by not a few in this backsliding, and degenerate age, that national covenanting is not warrantable under the New Testament dispensation. But till it can be proved that vowing to the Lord is not a moral duty; that it is not a mean approved of God for awakening persons to a sense of those obligations they are laid under, by the law of God, to maintain the purity of his institutions, and walk with him in all the ways of holy obedience, and for exciting them to a conscientious discharge of the several duties incumbent on them; and that there is nothing in the word of God which gives us reason to expect nations and kingdoms shall be the Lord’s, so as to distinguish themselves by a professed subjection to the Redeemer, whom God hath appointed king over Zion, the hill of his holiness in a public national capacity, under the New Testament economy,—such objections cannot have any weight; and indeed the proposing and urging of them, as they tend to obliterate any impressions of the obligation of our solemn covenant-engagements to the Lord, and harden the generation in their covenant-breaking courses, must be considered as making no small addition to the national guilt.’—Mr. Wilson of London’s Sermons on National Calamities procured by National Sins, p. 60, 61.

[29] N. Testimony, p. 162.

[30] A writer formerly quoted grants, that the covenant engagements of Israel were strictly national as well as ecclesiastical. ‘While they entered into covenant as a church (says he) they did so also as a state. They acknowledged JEHOVAH, both as their God and as their king.—This covenant, viewed in one light, was their national oath of allegiance.’—Jamieson’s Use of Sacred History, vol. i. p. 359. His plea against national covenanting under the New Testament proceeds solely upon the view which he takes of Israel as a typical nation, and of their covenanting, which he considers, not as moral and exemplary, but as typical of, and prefiguring the engagements of the church under the New Testament. ‘They in their consent to this covenant, (he says) prefigured the church of Christ under the New Testament.—It has been seen that the Israelites, in their mixed character, as an "holy nation," were not typical of any particular nation, or political body, under the New Testament; but that this character is exclusively transferred to the church of Christ. Hence it follows, that it is only in a religious character, or as members of the spiritual "commonwealth of Israel," that this duty is obligatory in our times.—Did literal Israel prefigure the church in their relation to God as their King? What is this duty, but the church’s solemn recognisance of her subjection to the king of Zion, and of her cheerful submission to all the laws of his kingdom?’ Ibid, p. 358. 360.—Until we can be persuaded that JEHOVAH, as the king of Israel, was a type of Christ, as king of Zion, we must be excused from believing that the covenants of Israel were typical of those of the church under the New Testament; and, in the mean time, must, with the soundest Presbyterians, look upon them as moral and religious. The arguments founded upon the idea of the typical nation and church of Israel, as urged by Mr. Glass, (who, in his Narrative and Testimony of the King of Martyrs, has stated them with as great ingenuity and force as any that have succeeded), are examined in the following among other Tracts; Review of a Paper against the Solemn League; an Essay on the perpetual obligation of the National Covenant; and, A Defence of National Churches.

[31] ‘The first command (says Mr. Willison), requires Israel, as a Nation, to chose, acknowledge, and avouch the Lord to be their God; as well as every particular person within it; the command speaks, De singulis generum, et de generibus singulorum. Now, the law that respects one nation as such, respects every nation. And though every nation have not a discovery of the Lord’s respect to them by a voice from heaven, as Israel had; yet that doth not alter their duty, nor loose them from the obligation of a moral precept; and especially those nations to whom God in his wonderful mercy, is pleased to send his glorious gospel, with a commission to his ambassadors to disciple nations as well as individuals.’—He illustrates this also from the second and third commandments. Of the last he says, ‘This command is also directed to Israel in a National capacity, Deut. 5:11, and afterwards more particularly explained, with respect to the case of covenanting with God, Deut. 10:20. Thou shalt cleave to him, and swear by his name, See Psalm 76:11.’ Defence of National Churches, p. 14, 15. See also Willison’s Afflicted Man’s Companion, Preface.

[32] See Rushworth’s Collections ad ann. 1628. Collier’s Eccl. Hist. of Britain, vol. ii p. 747. Neal’s History of the Puritans, vol. ii. p. 187. Toulmin’s edition.

[33] It runs in the following terms, ‘I,—do, in the presence of Almighty God, promise, vow, and protest, to maintain and defend, as far as lawfully I may, with my life, power, and estate, the true reformed Protestant religion, &c. also the power and privileges of parliament, &c., and neither for hope, &c., shall relinquish this promise, vow, and protestation.’ The oath may be seen at length, by those who have not access to the records of the period, in Moncrieff’s Practical Works, vol. ii. p. 139, and in Free Thoughts on the Toleration of Popery, p. 441. See also Baillie’s Letters, vol. i. p. 295, 297. Neal, ut supra, vol. iii. p. 60, 61.

[34] See Rescinded Acts, apud ann. 1641. A Collection of Laws in favour of the Reformation in Scotland, p. 80. Baillie’s Letters, vol. i. p. 323.

[35] The following are extracts from the public papers respecting this important transaction: ‘Tuesday, 6th June. The House of Commons, in a fall house, after hearing the report of the Committee respecting the late treasonous plot, had a large debate concerning a former motion, very needful and of great concernment at the time, for the parliament and whole kingdom to enter into a solemn covenant,’ Perfect Diurnal, No. 52. ‘The said house presently entered into a solemn vow and covenant to defend the true reformed protestant religion, and the liberty of the subject. The covenant was solemnly taken by all the said House, only sixteen of them desired a day or two to think of it, which was granted them,’ Certain Informations, No. 21. ‘The Lords fully concurred with the Commons. The freemen of the city of London, assembled in the Guildhall, cheerfully swore it. It was ordered to he sent to the army; and to the Earl of Warwick, to be tendered to all the navy at sea, and a speedy course taken to have the whole kingdom enter into the same.’ The covenant did run in the following terms: ‘Whereas there hath been, and now is, in this kingdom, a Popish and treacherous plot for the subversion of the true protestant reformed religion, and the liberty of the subject, &c. I, in humility and reverence of the divine majesty, declare my hearty sorrow for mine own sins, and the sins of the nation, which have deserved the calamities that now lie upon it; and my true intention is, by God’s grace, to endeavour the amendment of my own ways; and I do further, in the presence of Almighty God, declare, vow, and covenant, that, in order to the security and preservation of the true reformed protestant religion, and liberty of the subject, I will not consent to the laying down of arms, so long as, &c. And that I do abhor and detest the said wicked and treacherous design, and that I never gave, nor will give my assent to the execution thereof,’ &c. &c.—The kingdoms Weekly Intelligencer, from 6th to 13th June, 1643. See also Rushworth’s Collections, vol. v. p. 825.

[36] Crofton’s Fastening of St. Peter’s Fetters, or the efficacy and extent of the Solemn League asserted and vindicated, p. 138-146. See also the Covenanter’s Plea against Absolvers, by Messrs Calamy, Vines, and Baxter, Epist. Dedic. and chap. ii. iv. And the various Testimonies of the Ministers of England against the Sectaries and the execution of Charles I.

[37] Brown’s Apologetical Relation, p. 343.

[38] Forrester’s Rectius Instruendum Confut. Dial. 2nd.

[39] See HERE of this Statement.

[40] See HERE of this Statement.

[41] Review of a paper written against our National and Solemn League and Covenant, p. 47, 50.

[42] Letter to a minister in the country, asserting the National Covenant, &c. See also Mr. Hog’s (of Carnock) Letter to Lady C—. And his Letter concerning our Sacred National Covenants.

[43] This consideration fully accounts for certain expressions in the Sermons and other writings of Seceders, which have been improved by some to fix upon them the sentiment, that religious covenants are wholly ecclesiastical. Discourses preached by them upon occasions of covenanting were adapted to the particular manner in which the duty was performed among them, that is, as a church. Whenever some persons hear of covenanting by a church as such, they seem to take it for granted that there can be no other mode of it in any circumstances; and when they hear of covenants being binding upon us as church-members, they immediately draw the inference, that they are binding in that character only, and that they are, in their own nature, wholly ecclesiastical.—The expressions, only, wholly, or entirely, are overlooked, although the hinge of the present controversy turns upon them.

[44] Moncrieff’s (of Culfargie) Practical Works, vol. i. p. 294, vol. ii. p. 63, see also p. 54, 61, 62.

[45] Mair’s Sermons on Jer. 50:4,5, p. 2, 104, 110 on the argument, from ‘the nature of Society,’ the Author says, ‘This truth may be illustrated from the consideration of the institution and design of even civil society. The powers that be, are ordained of God, Rom. 13:1. He has set them up; as he has made man, and so given him a personal being, so he has made civil society, and given men a civil and political life. Hence it is evident, that as particular persons are called to pay this homage to the Lord, because he has made them, and given them all the blessings, real or spiritual, that they enjoy; so whatever societies God has set up, are called, as such, to pay even this homage to him for their being as a society, and for all the blessings that, as such, they enjoy. Thus as to families, cities, provinces, nations,’ &c. Ibid, p. 105.

[46] Gellatly’s Observations on the Detection detected, Epist. p. 3-5, printed at Germantown, 1758. The same Author quotes from Mr. Willison’s preface to the Afflicted Man’s Companion in support of the magistrate’s power circa sacra.

[47] Morison’s Present Duty, p. 74, and his attempt to vindicate, &c. the duty of renewing our Solemn Covenants, p. 56.

[48] ‘While the renovation of the covenants was in agitation here (says Mr. Scott, in his account of the difference between him and the Synod), I had no objection to public covenanting, or religious vowing and swearing in general,—provided it was properly stated and managed; the matter of the oath or covenant plain and easily understood, and also clearly adapted to the genius of the Christian religion, and church state. But I came to conceive a dislike of, at least to be difficulted about, the state of covenanting as national properly so called, or as a taking in the nation in its national capacity; apprehending that to have a native tendency to an undue blending of the kingdom of Christ and the kingdoms of this world, and the peculiar interests of the one and the other, as is evidently the case in the national covenants of these lands, upon which Seceders have taken up their standing. When, therefore, I had occasion to speak of that matter, I took it off the national plan, and viewed it as belonging to the churches of the saints, and members thereof as such, and as distinct from the civil state. But I soon came to learn, that this view of it would not satisfy those I was connected with, at least the leading men among them.’ Relating a conversation between him and a member of Synod, he says, ‘After some altercation concerning these things, he told me, it seemed we were not for covenanting; and therefore were of different principles from the Synod,—which also he had before alleged with regard to the civil magistrate’s power circa sacra. To which I answered, that I never heard any of our people declare against covenanting, or public religious vowing and swearing in general; although I understood, not a few of them were scrupled at the present mode of it in the Secession. To which he replied, it is not enough although we should be for covenanting of some sort (for, said he on another occasion, the Independents themselves will admit of a sort of church covenants), if we be not for national covenanting as such; that being the covenanting espoused and contended for by the Synod, even such covenanting as was promoted in the period between 1638 and 1650. After conversing a little concerning national covenanting as such, I told him, that I thought we need not give ourselves much trouble on that score, until we saw a nation duly qualified for it.’ p. 55, 56.

‘The difference (says he) which took place between the Seceders and me, or the prosecution which they came to carry on against me,—did not, properly speaking, turn upon any one point of doctrine (if you except that of the civil magistrate’s power circa sacra, and speculations and points therewith connected), or of church discipline and government; but upon matters, for the most part, somewhat political, wherein either the faith and holiness of the gospel, or the appointed discipline of Christ’s church, has no manner of concern.’ In answer to a charge brought against him, that his ‘scruples concerning the civil magistrate’s power circa sacra, and things connected therewith, were against the principles of our Presbyterian and covenanting ancestors on those points, and must land him in Independency;’ Mr. Scott says, almost in the very words which are now current among Seceders, ‘I cannot help being surprised that a zealous advocate for the divine right of Presbytery would so express himself; for to me it appears to be, upon the matter, a yielding of that important cause; or, at least, giving a mighty handle unto those of the congregational way. If there be a necessary connection between Presbyterian church-government, and the things which I proposed scruples at under this head; then it is beyond all doubt, that, for the first 300 years, that could not be the form of government which obtained in the churches of Christ,—because during that space of time, the powers were not Christian; and, of consequence, the things there scrupled at could not take place. But, as the disputes about church government, or any particular form thereof, did not enter into my case with the Seceders; I shall leave this matter to be settled and adjusted between him and the Independents.—According to any views that I have attained unto (it is hoped, from the scriptures), of the spiritual nature of the church and kingdom of Christ in general, with its distinction from the kingdoms of this world—though it should be made ever so clear, that my scruples, under that head, have a tendency to land me in Independency, I would not be able, just on that account, to give up with said scruples. After all, I am not yet certain if there be a necessary connection between these scruples and Independency, properly so called. Yea, what if I should be able to shew, that sundry very learned clergymen of the church of England, by law established, have gone fully as far in objecting unto the commonly-received doctrine, concerning the civil magistrate’s power, in or about the church of Christ, as ever I have done? and sure these were no Independents.—But what mighty sounds are these? Independent! Sectarian! Latitudinarian! &c. so much and so successfully used by the leaders in the Secession. Who can stand before, or resist the force of them? Where is the doubt they must not solve? the argument they must not set aside?’

Take another specimen; ‘Our scruples, or objections, impugn received principles.—But why is such an uncommon, such a disproportionate stress laid on the word received? The question is here mis-stated. It is not—Has such a thing been received? but—Ought it to have been received? Is it a scripture-truth? &c.—According to this plea, or maxim, reformation could never have taken place in any Church.—This would put an effectual stop to further reformation in all the protestant churches. And further, by whom are the things objected to received,’ &c. &c. Scott’s Account of the difference between him and the Antiburgher Seceders, p. 8, 29, 30, 70, 71.

These quotations need no comment or application. Mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur. The reader must perceive at once the exact correspondence between these sentiments and modes of reasoning, and those which are now used in the Synod. When old errors are revived, the same manner of defence will be unconsciously adopted. A person may desire to conceal the country, or the province, to which he belongs, but his language and dialect will betray him.