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Ordinance of Covenanting

James Dodson

Greyfriars Church.

Greyfriars Church.


“I pray you peruse the particulars to be opposed by vertue of your Covenant, Popery, Prelacy, Profanenesse, Schisme, Heresie; and do not dare to indulge any abomination, which you have vowed to oppose: Take heed that no sinfull biasse of near relations, or any self-advantages, take you off from your faithfullnesse in this kinde. The Holy Ghost makes this a character of an heir of Heaven, Psal. 15:4. He sweares and keeps it, though to his own hinderance: Therefore let not fear of losing a customer, a friend, an office, a good bargain, or any other outward advantage, hinder you in keeping your Covenant.”—Simeon Ashe, Religious Covenanting Directed, and Covenant-keeping perswaded (1646).

Works on the Ordinance of Covenanting:


The Solemn League And Covenant.-1643-The Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.-This is both a political league and a religious covenant between the three nations for establishing a covenanted uniformity of religion together with providing a mutual defense.

An Ordinance of the Lords and Commons, enjoining the taking of the late Solemn League and Covenant, throughout the Kingdom of England and Dominion of Wales.-1643-The Parliament.-An Act designed to see that the Solemn League and Covenant was subscribed throughout England and Wales including instructions for how to subscribe.

The Great Danger of Covenant-refusing, and Covenant-breaking.-1645-Edmund Calamy (1600-1666).-Westminster divine Edmund Calamy’s sermon on the ordinance of covenanting wherein he describes the use of covenanting together with warnings against refusing to covenant or, what it worse, to break covenant.

A Declaration Of The Commissioners Of The General Assembly, Concerning Present Dangers, And Duties Relating To The Covenant And Religion.-1648-The National Church of Scotland.-The assembly issues a warning to a careful keeping of the Solemn League and explains why it is dangerous to recede from this.

Whether it be Lawful, Just, & Expedient, that there be an Ordinance of Parliament for the Taking of the Solemn League & Covenant, By All Persons in the Kingdom, Under a Considerable Penalty.-1649-George Gillespie.-An essay designed to explain both the necessity of enforcing the Solemn League and the duty of requiring all persons who are capable in the kingdom to take this as their own vow under threat of civil penalties.

A Sermon Preach’d Upon Breach of Covenant.-1663-John Guthrie (ca. 1632-1669).-A sermon on the binding nature of covenants and the consequences that fall to those who break them.

HEAD III.-The Refusing to Swear & Subscribe the many unlawful imposed Oaths, for which many have suffered great Cruelties; Chiefly that of Abjuration which was the Cause of Several their Suffering to Death, Vindicated.-1687-Alexander Shields.-In this chapter, Mr. Shields explains the doctrine of oaths and vows and discusses why Covenanters cannot take certain kinds of oaths. Much of this discussion is necessary to gain an understanding about the doctrine of covenanting itself.

The Distinguishing Practice of our Reforming Ancestors.-1771-John Brown of Haddington.-Excerpted from a larger work on the history of the church, this contains his observations and comments on the covenanting practiced by older Presbyterians.

Thoughts on Covenant Obligation.-1798-Anonymous.-This short article examines the issue of covenant obligation particularly with respect to religious covenants but with the understanding that many of the comments pertain to social and national covenants.

Observations on the Public Covenants, Betwixt God and the Church.-1799-Archibald Mason.-A thorough survey of Biblical data and theological reasoning on the subject of covenanting. Mason discusses the duty, obligations and blessings which accrue to churches and nations that enter into this ordinance.

A Sermon on Covenanting.-1803-Samuel Brown Wylie.-An excellent sermon on the duty of covenanting originally published with “Two Sons of Oil.” This is a reasoned defense which includes discussions of federal headship and descending obligations of social and religious covenants.

The Obligation of Covenants.-1803-Samuel Brown Wylie.-A sermon that demonstrates the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of covenanting which also explains how and why social covenanting can bind descending generations.

The Duty of Nations.-1810-Gilbert McMaster.-A sermon on national covenanting together with the duty of nations that are favored with the light of the Gospel to engage in this ordinance.

A Plea for the Covenanted Reformation in Britain and Ireland.-1822-George Stevenson.-In this treatise, Stevenson defends the doctrine of religious social covenants. The discussion has interesting and useful comments on the use of creeds and the need for testimony bearing. However, its most important component is its explanation and defense of the descending obligations of covenants. Originally written in 1822, this is the third edition expanded by some twenty pages of material.

The Vow:-1831-James Renwick Willson.-This sacramental sermon focuses on the doctrine of oaths and vows. It discusses the implications of vows for people in various connections, from members of the church to nations. In this, Mr. Willson has much to say about public social covenanting in church and state.

An Overture entitled “Testimony for Public Covenanting.”-1839-Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.-The American Synod presents the doctrine of covenanting together with its history with an eye to renovation of covenants. This document is filled with many helpful and interesting information not easily available elsewhere.

The Duty of Social Covenanting illustrated and enforced.-1841-Thomas Sproull.-A sermon on the doctrine of social covenanting together with how covenant keeping holds the key for  Presbyterian reunion.

Lecture VII.-1841-William Symington.-An essay exploring the doctrine of social covenanting with an excellent discussion of the descending obligations of lawful covenants upon the societies which entered into them. In addition, Symington undertakes a defence of the National Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant.

Covenant Renovation.-1849-James Renwick Willson.-A short article calling for covenant renovation with special reference to the relation of the Solemn League and Covenant to the United States.

Public Covenanting.-1849-James Renwick Willson.-A terse defense of the binding obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant upon the United States.

Seasons of Covenanting.-1850-James Renwick Willson.-A short article pressing for covenant renewal, including the Solemn League and Covenant, because the signs of the times warrant such practice.

The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism.-1853-William L. Roberts.-An excellent overview of Reformed Presbyterian principles set in a catechetical form. Roberts covers many forgotten and neglected topics which are of important to the life and identity of the Covenanter church.

Social Religious Covenanting.-1856-James M. Willson.-A survey of the doctrine of social covenanting with both an exposition and application designed as an apologetic for the Reformed Presbyterian position.

A Memorial of Covenanting.-1857-Thomas Houston.-A volume written to instruct the Irish Reformed Presbyterians in the duty and obligation of covenanting in consequence of their covenant “renewal” in Dervock, 1853. This volume contains much of historical value and concerning the doctrine of covenanting generally. However, it is defective in its views of the manner of covenant renovation.

Hephzibah Beulah. Our Covenants the National and Solemn League; and Covenanting by the Reformed Presbyterian Synod in America: Considered.-1872-James W. Shaw.-An engaging and often trenchant critique of the 1871 Covenant sworn at Pittsburgh by a minister who remained in the communion of the RPCNA after they had abandoned their covenant bonds.

The Reformed Presbyterian Church and Covenanting.-1872-Anonymous.-An interesting article written by a Seceder which reviews the “Covenant of 1871” and shows that the Pittsburgh “Covenanters” are of a very different character than those who emitted the “Act, Declaration and Testimony,” of 1761. In 1871, the “American” covenant demonstrated that those claiming to be the Reformed Presbyterians [i.e., the RPCNA] had become de facto and practically Seceders.

Protest and Declinature of John McAuley.-1873-John McAuley.-In this Protest and Declinature, John McAuley explains how the RPCNA ceased to be the Reformed Presbyterian and became something radically different. This suicide of the Covenanter identity within the RP Synod necessitates separation and demands honesty on the part of those who continue to claim to be Covenanters under the umbrella of the “Covenant of 1871.”

Review of the New Covenant. Adopted at Pittsburg, PA. May, A.D. 1871.-1874-Anonymous.-This first article examines the claims of those who entered into the “Covenant of 1871” and shows that it was not a renewal of the National Covenant or Solemn League and Covenant but a replacement covenant which confirms the departure of the RPCNA from the ranks of genuine Covenanters.

The New Covenant. General, Evasive, and Equivocal.-1874-Anonymous.-In this second article, the author of a previous in the Reformation Advocate, continues his critique of the “Covenant of 1871” and describes how the RPCNA had fairly entered into the theological position of the Seceders in this transaction. On this ground alone, it must be repudiated by all genuine Covenanters.

Defects of the New Covenant.-1874-Anonymous.-This third article, published in the Reformation Advocate, continues the line of attack on the “Covenant of 1871” and raises the question of national religion and its absence by the new “Covenanters.” This, too, indicates that the RPCNA no longer can claim with honesty that they are descendants of the Scottish Covenanters.

Review of A.M. Milligan’s Politics.-1877-Robert Clyde, Sr.-A scathing review of an article on politics by Rev. A.M. Milligan which appeared in Our Banner. Mr. Clyde addresses the complete failure of the RPCNA to exercise political dissent and points to their civil incorporation, or charter, together with the “Covenant of 1871” as examples of their treachery in covenant.

The New Covenant Destroys Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience.-1879-John McAuley.-In this article, Mr. McAuley describes and defends the doctrine of Christian liberty set forth in the Westminster Confession and shows that this doctrine is destroyed by the “Covenant of 1871” sworn by the Synod of the RPCNA.

A Short Vindication of our Covenanted Reformation.-1879-David Steele.-A second edition of the principles of the Scottish Second Reformation against the “American” RP “Covenant of 1871.”

Where Hast Thou Gleaned To-Day?-1880-John Clyde.-In this article, Mr. Clyde explains the beliefs of faithful Covenanters versus those espoused by the RPCNA. He also asserts and defends the proposition that the RPCNA is an alien organization springing, not from the Reformed Church of Scotland, but from its civil incorporation and the treacherous “Covenant of 1871.”

A Third Reformation Necessary:-1880-James Kerr.-A sermon calling for Christians to follow in the footsteps of the flock by adopting the piety, enlightened views and Christian patriotism of the Scottish martyrs.

The Attainments of the Church of the Second Reformation.-1896-James Kerr.-An address before the First International Reformed Presbyterian Convention, in which the Reformed Church of Scotland, at the time of the Second Reformation, is presented as Biblical, Calvinistic, covenanting and established.