That Glorious Marriage Day
The National Covenant as Social Contract and Responsive Covenant
Douglas Gebbie

A. Introduction.

 

Wednesday the 28th of February 1638 was “that glorious marriage day of the Kingdom with God.”[1] So confided Archibald Johnston of Warriston to his diary on the day that the National Covenant[2] was first signed. Almost fifty years later Alexander Shields takes up the same theme when he writes, “Scotland is the betrothed Virgin: We were espoused to Christ, and joined to Him, by a marriage covenant, never to be forgotten.”[3] Strongly tied doctrinally to the Covenant of Grace and devotionally to the relationship between Christ and the church, the language of marriage is sacred and emotive. It loses nothing when Warriston or Shields use it of Scotland. Have they, in the words of Gordon Donaldson, “provide[d] national conceit with a theological foundation”?[4]

 

To answer that question, it is necessary to examine the concept of national covenanting. John Coffey points out that historians have looked to the Scottish custom of banding, the medieval notion of social contract government, and covenant theology for the origins of the concepts behind the National Covenant. He, himself, seems to settle on a fusion of John Knox’s concern for true religion with George Buchanan’s more secular natural-law arguments.[5] Before taking up Coffey’s idea of fusion, the approach here will be to look at text and context, social contract and special relationship, band and covenant, and Scripture and circumstance in the hope of discovering how the signing of a document distinguished by “cerebral legalism”[6] could elicit Warriston’s response.

 

B. Text and Context.

 

The National Covenant was compiled by Alexander Henderson and Archibald Johnston of Warriston, revised by the nobles Rothes, Loudoun, and Balmerino, and adjusted at a meeting of minsters.[7] It is comprised of three sections: The Negative Confession of 1581; lists of relevant Acts of Parliament concerning the establishment of the Church of Scotland as Reformed in doctrine, worship, and government; and a band, or covenant, binding its signatories to uphold the 1581 Confession, to live lives consistent with a Christian profession, to honour the King’s person and constitutional authority, and to defend one another.[8]

 

It was a national covenant because it was a mass oath, signed by Scottish people from all classes and callings, and from most parts of the country. Critics point out that the people from the North East and the Highlands did not sign in any great numbers. Even so, there is some evidence that these areas might not have been as united in their opposition as has been supposed;[9] and it is still fair to say that the Covenant was “as truly national as any such document can ever be”.[10]

 

It was also a national covenant because its appeal “to deep-seated religious conviction, to real fear of Popery, and to a national determination not to surrender Scottish institutions into the hands of the English” struck several chords in the self-understanding of the people, leading to it being not only widely, but “very well, and in some areas enthusiastically, received”.[11]

 

For the present purpose, it should be noted that the signatories enter into covenant with each other “before God, his angels, and the world” and with God as their witness; yet, in what appears to be a connected context, they speak of “renewing their covenant with God”. In that portion, however, they do not describe themselves as “Noblemen, Barons, Gentlemen, Ministers, and Commons”, but as “Christians”:

 

"And because we cannot look for a blessing from God upon our proceedings, except with our profession and subscription we join such a life and conversation as beseemeth Christians who have renewed their covenant with God; we therefore faithfully promise for ourselves, our followers, and all others under us, both in public, and in our particular families, and personal carriage, to endeavour to keep ourselves within the bounds of Christian liberty, and to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness, and righteousness, and to every duty we owe to God and man."

 

This covenant renewal, being made by “Christians” and involving “life and conversation”, appears, in the text, to be similar to making, or renewing, a personal covenant with God. This devotional exercise, as described by William Guthrie,[12] is a feature of preparation for communion[13] and appropriate to keeping the fast which was held prior to the signing of the Covenant.[14] Guthrie, in his The Christian’s Great Interest, provides a sample form, and then says:

 

"Let people covenant with God in fewer or more words, as the Lord shall dispose them – for we intend no exact form of words for any person – only it were fitting that men should before the Lord acknowledge their lost estate in themselves, and the relief that is by Christ; and that they do declare that they accept of the same as it is offered in the gospel, and do thankfully rest with it, intrusting themselves henceforth wholly unto God, to be saved in His way, for which they wait according to His faithfulness.[15]"

 

Yet, while personal covenanting is involved, in the context, there is something more. Speaking of the National Covenant, Warriston writes, “I read the Confession, Acts of Parliament, and Bond to the nobles, ….”;[16] Rothes describes it as “a public covenant of the collective kingdom with God and for God and the King”;[17] the ministers who met at Edinburgh in February 1638 sent an exhortation to the Lords of Council in which they speak of “the renewing of the Confession of Faith and Covenant”;[18] and the General Assembly of August 1639 calls it a “Covenant with God, the King’s Majesty, and among ourselves”.[19] The confession being renewed is the Negative Confession of 1581 with a new covenant or band attached to update the General Band [20] which was added when the Negative Confession was renewed in 1590. Both the Confession and the band are composed as social contracts, yet they are being called a covenant with God. As shall be seen, the ambiguity over what is being renewed, the reconciling of text and context, colours this whole discussion.

 

The National Covenant is a number of things at the same time. It is a social contract: a band of mutual defense for the preservation of civil and ecclesiastical rights sworn before God. It is a mass oath subscribed or sworn by people of all classes: an act of the people themselves, not their civil and ecclesiastical representatives acting on their behalf. It is the renewal of the Negative Confession of 1581 with a new Band. It is a covenant with God. However, a difficulty for any understanding of what covenanting with God involves are the Act of General Assembly which asks for, and the Act of Parliament which enacts, mandatory subscription.[21] Leaving aside the fact that the moral force of a mass oath is in its voluntariness, it is one thing to the demand that “all his Majesty’s subjects of what rank and quality soever” make or renew a civil covenant concerning external religious matters with the King and among themselves; it is another to demand that they renew their personal covenant with God “under all civil pains”.

 

C. Social Contract and Special Relationship.

 

The National Covenant is, on the surface, a social contract to defend a particular understanding of another social contract. The Covenanters contract with each other, before God, to uphold their understanding of the contract which the exists between the King and his people. When signatories to the National Covenant say that they will “stand to the defence of [their] dread sovereign the King’s majesty, his person and authority, in the defence and preservation of the foresaid true religion, liberties, and laws of the kingdom”, they are contracting to defend a form of social contract which might be called, in the words of Samuel Rutherford, a “limited and mixed monarchy”.[22]

 

Citing George Buchanan’s 1582 History, Rutherford claims that such a social contract has existed from the earliest Scottish kings.[23] On a better footing, both Buchanan and Rutherford refer to the time of the Scottish Wars of Independence to illustrate the powers of parliament regarding the throne. Buchanan[24], following the social contract teaching of Duns Scotus[25] and the Declaration of the Clergy of Scotland (1309),[26] cites the setting aside of John Baliol in favour of Robert the Bruce; and Rutherford[27] mentions the Scottish parliament pre-planning the line of succession upon Bruce’s death. The National Covenant reflects a relationship between king and people which resonates with the Scottish national identity. It also adds a further social contract to defend that foundational social contract which conveys a similar message to The Declaration of Arbroath (1320),[28] where the latter says regarding Robert the Bruce:

 

"He, that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain to the death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand. Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who was well able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom - for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself."

 

Lacking the Declaration’s power of rhetoric, the Covenant is certainly “distinguished more by a cerebral legalism than by any visceral appeals to popular sentiment”.[29] Nevertheless, the same social contract theory is applied in both the Declaration and the Covenant. Just as the nobles in 1320 would stand by Robert the Bruce so long as he did not subvert their rights, so the Covenanters defence of Charles I is contingent upon his defence of the “true religion, liberties, and laws of the kingdom”.

 

Gordon Donaldson sees a further connexion yet between 14th and 17th century attitudes in the juxtaposing of Scotland and Israel.[30] As seen above, The Declaration of Arbroath describes Robert the Bruce in terms of Joshua and Maccabeus. It also declares Christ’s special relationship to Scotland:

 

"The high qualities and deserts of these people, were they not otherwise manifest, gain glory enough from this: that the King of kings and Lord of lords, our Lord Jesus Christ, after His Passion and Resurrection, called them, even though settled in the uttermost parts of the earth, almost the first to His most holy faith. Nor would He have them confirmed in that faith by merely anyone but by the first of His Apostles - by calling, though second or third in rank - the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron forever."

 

This special relationship was previously confirmed by the Papal Bulls Super anxietatibus (1179), Cum universi (1192), and Scimus Fili (1299) which recognise the independence of the Scottish church from the archiepiscopal oversight of York or Canterbury.[31] Post-Reformation, the special relationship was reframed, for example by Samuel Rutherford, writing before and after the signing of the Covenant, as a marriage. What Jeremiah and Ezekiel[32] say of Israel is very similar to what Rutherford says of Scotland: “Scotland, whom our Lord took off the dunghill and out of hell and made a fair bride to himself ….”; “Nay, He will embrace both us, the little sister, and the elder sister, the Church of the Jews”; “Christ got a charter of Scotland from His Father ….”; and, “Oh, if harlot, harlot Scotland would rue upon her provoked Lord, and pity her good Husband, ….”.[33] It is difficult to say how much should be deduced from Rutherford’s use of such language. Whether one of the figures used might be pushed as far as to liken the Church of the Jews to Leah and the Church of Scotland to Rachel is debatable. Nevertheless, there is no doubt in the Covenanters’ minds that the special relationship which God has with Scotland is very much like that which He had with Israel.[34]

 

The English dimension also carries over. John Knox writes of the Church of Scotland:

 

"For as touching the doctrine taught by our ministers, and as touching the administration of Sacraments used in our Churches, we are bold to affirm that there is no realm this day upon the face of the earth, that hath them in greater purity; yea (we must speak the truth whomsoever we offend), there is none (not realm, we mean) that hath them in the like purity. For all others (how sincere that ever the doctrine be, that by some is taught), retain in their Churches, and the ministers thereof, some footsteps of Antichrist, and some dregs of Papistry; but we (all praise to God alone) have nothing within our Churches that ever flowed from that Man of Sin. And this we acknowledge to be the strength given unto us by God, because we esteemed not ourselves wise in our own eyes, but understanding our whole wisdom to be but mere foolishness before our God, laid it aside, and followed only that which we found approved by himself.[35]"

 

While Alexander Hume[36] (1560-1609) writes of the “Disciplin of our nychtbour countrey of England”:

 

"In Jehuda the idoles wer dyvers tymes broken doun by findrie guid Kings, as by Afa, Jehofaphat, Uzziah, &c.; but the groves and hie places remaned ever ftill, and wer not put awaye till the dayes of Hezekiah and Jofias, who maid a prefyte reformatioun. In lykmanner, althoght idoles demolyfched, and the Pope’s authoritie be rejected in the realm of England; yit the hie places are not put away, that is, the preheminence of Byschopes, their furplus, their organs, their lightis, their observing of feiftis, their fafting in the tyme of Lent, &c., whiche refemble the cicatrices of ane evill-cured wound. Notwithftanding, we fould not difpair of our nychtbour countrie; but rather houp that the Lord, quhilk in mercie had begun the Reformatione by good Queen Elizabeth (whois verie duft I reverence) will alfo in his appoynted tym abfolve the reformation, and raife up ane Hezekiah or a Joziah, evin move the heart of a King James, or efter him raife a King Harie, for performing thairof."

 

George Gillespie brings the thoughts of Knox and Hume together when he writes:

 

After that it pleased God, by the light of his glorious gospel, to dispel the more than Cimmerian darkness of antichristianism, and by the antidote of reformation, to avoid the poison of Popery; forasmuch as in England and Ireland, every noisome weed which God's hand had never planted was not pulled up, therefore we now see the faces of those churches overgrown with the repullulating twigs and sprigs of popish superstition. Mr Sprint acknowledges the Reformation of England to have been defective, and says, “It is easy to imagine what difficulty it was to reform all things at the first, where the most part of the privy council, the nobility, bishops, judges, gentry, and people, were open or close Papists, where few or none any countenance stood for religion at the first, but the Protector and Cranmer.” The Church of Scotland was blessed with a more glorious and perfect reformation than any of our neighbour churches. The doctrine, discipline, regiment, and policy established here by ecclesiastical and civil laws, and sworn and subscribed unto by the king's majesty and several presbyteries and parish churches of the land, as it had the applause of foreign divines, so was it in all points agreeable unto the Word; neither could the most rigid Aristarchus of these times challenge any irregularity of the same. But now, alas! even this church, which was once so great a praise in the earth, is deeply corrupted, and has “turned aside quickly out of the way” (Ex. 32:8). So that this is the Lord's controversy Scotland: “I had planted thee a noble vine wholly a right seed. How then art thou turned into degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” (Jer. 2:21)[37]"

 

The imposition of “English Popish Ceremonies” in the 17th century strikes not only against post-Reformation ecclesiology, but pan-Reformation nationalism. Social contracts and a special relationship with God are important to the Scottish national identity. Leaving aside Warriston’s choice of wedding day, the special relationship which Scotland has, and which her neighbour does not have, with God is likened to Israel’s; and, of the figures of speech used to describe that relationship, marriage seems to be the one of choice.

 

D. Band and Covenant.

 

Speaking of the National Covenant, Warriston writes, “I read the Confession, Acts of Parliament, and Bond to the nobles, ….”[38] Entering into a bond or band was an old Scottish practice of joining together in a pact of mutual defence. It was into some such defensive agreement that the Gentlemen of the Mearns entered in 1556 when they promised to maintain the true preaching of the gospel. However, by 1557, the old idea of a band had altered into something which J. D. Mackie says “drew its inspiration rather from the Old Testament than the Scottish tradition”.[39] In this religious band, a group of nobles promised “befoir the Magestie of God” to maintain the gospel, its preachers, and the congregation of Christ, and to renounce “the Congregatioun of Sathan, with all the superstitious abominatioun and idolatrie thereof”.[40] This renunciation, perhaps, identifies the band as a response to John Knox’s definition of God’s covenant with His people: “This is the league betuixt God and us, that He alone sall be oure God, and we salbe his pepill: He sall communiat with us of his graces and goodness; We sall serve him in bodie and spreit: He salbe oure saifgard frome death and dampnatioun; We sall seik to him, and sall flie frome all strange Godis.” Knox warns that “we canot keip the league betuix him and us gif we favour, follow, or spair idolateris” for “such is the condition of the league betwene me and my God”.[41]

 

After reading both Richard Greaves[42] and Andrew Woolsey[43] on Knox’s covenant theology and its personal and public applications, it appears that before 1558, Knox applied his view of the covenant to the lives of believing people. It was as individual believers responding personally to Knox’s covenant teaching that the nobles in 1557 banded together before God. In 1558, Knox appealed to the people of Scotland to take up the cause of the gospel, particularly the removal of idolatry. To support this appeal, he cites God’s covenant with Israel in Exodus 34:10-17 and the covenants which Josiah (2 Kings 23) and Asa (2 Chronicles 15) made in response. A band for a religious purpose can take on the character of these Old Testament responsive covenants.

 

This might be the beginning of a connexion of a previously secular band and a covenant with God. However, a stronger developing theme is the fusion of a profession of faith and a covenant with God which appears in interpretations placed upon subscription to the King’s or Negative Confession in 1581 and 1590, and the covenant renewal of 1596. The Negative Confession[44] stands between the bands of the 1550s and the National Covenant of which it forms the first part. Composed by John Craig,[45] it was called the King’s Confession because it was written at the request of James VI to quell fears of counter-reformational influences and activities at court.[46] If the Scots Confession of 1560 positively presents the doctrine of the Church of Scotland, this is a statement of the Roman Catholic doctrines denied: it is a “negative” confession. David Calderwood calls it the “Second Confession of Faith”[47], perhaps implying an equality of status with that of 1560. Thomas McCrie, confusingly, refers to it as the “National Covenant”[48]. While it does not appear to have been known by that name when it was first subscribed, it is most likely the “National Covenant” which is spoken of as being renewed in 1638.[49]

 

James and his close advisors signed it in January 1581; and, at the King’s command, it was more widely signed throughout the country later that year:

 

"Seing that we and our houshold have subscrived, and giving this publict confessioun of our faith, to the good exemple of our subjects, we command and charge all commissioners and ministers to crave the same confessioun of their parochiners, and proceed; against the refusers according to our lawes, and order of the kirk; delivering their names and lawfull processe to the ministers of our hous, with all haste and diligence, under the paine of fourtie pund, to be takin from their stipends; that we, with advice of our counsell, may tak order with suche proud contemners of God and our lawes. Subscrived with our hand, at Halyrudhous, the secund day of Marche, 1580, [now 1581,] the 14th yeere of our raigne.[50]"

 

In response, the General Assembly says that “the Confession of Faith lately set forth be the King’s Majestie’s proclamation, and subscribed be his Heines, The Kirk, in ane voice, acknowledges the said Confessione, ane trew and Christiane Confession to be agriet unto be such as trewly professe Christ and His trew religion, and the tenor thereof to be followit out as the samin is laid out in the said proclamation”.[51]

 

In 1590, due to one of the changes in the political climate which punctuate the Scottish part of James’ reign, the Lords of the Secret Council[52] ordered, in the name of the King, that the 1581 Confession and a new general band[53] be subscribed in the presence of commissioned ministers, by requiring:

 

"All and sindrie erles, lords, barons, free holders, gentlemen, in habitants of our burrowes, and other our lieges whatsomever, of what ranke and degree that ever they be of, to call and conveene before the said ministers, by their missive letters or messingers, at what soever place or dayes they sall thinke expedient ; and there require them to give the confessioun of their faith, together with their subscriptiouns thereto, and to the generall band made and subscribed alreadie by us, and certan of our estats, tuiching the maintenance and defence of the said true religioun, our person and estate, and notwithstanding of all forrane preparatiouns and forces tending to the trouble therof. And in cace anie persons so re quired disobey, that the ministers of God's Word proceed to admonitiouns ; and finding them obstinat, caus the censures of the kirk be used against them, as enemies to God, us, and to the commoun weale of this their native countrie ; and that the saids ministers crave the concurrence of the noblemen, barons, and gentlemen, within the bounds particularlie above writtin, for the better executioun of the premisses.[54]"

 

The General Assembly responded to the Act of the Privy Council by taking up the commission:

 

"The subscription of the band of mainteaning religion and confession de novo is to be execute by the brethrein, and commissioners appointed by the Privie Counsell thereto; and that report of the diligence be made to the Presbyterie of Edinburgh, betuixt and the 20th day of May nixt to come.[55]"

 

This seems to indicate that subscribing to the Negative Confession was a test imposed by the civil authorities with the concurrence of the church; that it was of neither perpetual nor descending obligation, but rather subscribed “de novo” in order to meet specific emergent circumstances; and that while its initial purpose was to reassure the nation of the Court’s commitment to the cause of Reformation, its recurring purpose was to identify non-subscribers for prosecution. While it is called a confession, it does not seem to have the position of a declarative ecclesiastical creed.

 

The sincerity of the King, the principal signatory in 1581, was brought into question in 1584 when he imposed the “Black Acts”[56] which asserted royal supremacy over all causes in the country and re-established the Church of Scotland as Episcopalian in government. Presbyterians claimed that James VI had broken his oath of 1581. Writing in opposition to the Acts, James Carmichael equates subscription to a confession of faith with entering into a covenant. He says that those who are imposing the “Black Acts” are craftily and self-servingly pulling men away from their subscription to the Negative Confession. This he contrasts, first, with the straight forward clarity of the covenants made between Jehoash and the people and the LORD in the presence of Jehoiada (2 Kings 11:17; 2 Chronicles 23:16), and second, with the free and willing covenant made by the elders of Israel and David when he became king (2 Samuel 5:8; 1 Chronicles 12:23). He refers to the Negative Confession as “the former covenant with God and the King”.[57] In making these arguments, Carmichael may have changed the perception of the Confession from being a religious band sworn before God into it being a covenant made with Him.[58]

 

The next event of interest is the covenant renewal[59] by the ministers of the Church at the General Assembly in 1596. Rising out of an action of the previous year, John Davidson, minister at Prestonpans, brought a response to the Assembly from the Presbytery of Haddington regarding ministerial declensions. This resulted in an Assembly committee drawing up lists of ministerial corruptions in office and in persons and lives. The reception of the report is minuted thus:

 

"Concerning the defectiones of the ministrie: The samen at length being read out, reasonit, and considerate, the brethren considerit the samen agreeing therewith; and in respect that be God's Grace they intend reformation, and to sie the Kirk and Ministrie purgit; to the effect the wark may have the better success, they think it necessar that this Assembly be humblit for wanting such care as become them in such poynts as is sett downe, and some godly and zealous brother lay them out for their better humiliation, and that they make solemne promise before the Majestie of God, and make new Covenant with him for a maire carefull and reverent discharge of their ministrie: to the qwhilk effect was chosen Mr John Davidsone, and Tuesday nixt, at nyne houres in the morning, is appoyntit in the New Kirk for that effect; qwhairunto nane is to resort but the ministrie – the forme to be advysit the morne in privie conference.[60]"

 

Davidson preached, first, from Ezekiel chapters thirteen and thirty-four; and, at the end of his sermon, there was a time of humiliation, followed by prayer and public confession. Davidson preached again: this time from Luke 12:22. Calderwood recounts that:

 

"The exercise continued till neere one after noone. When the brethrein were to dissolve, they were stayed by the moderator, and desired to hold up their hands to testifie their entering in a new league with God. They held up their hands presentlie. Manie were wonderfullie moved at the sight of so manie hands so readilie holdin up.[61]"

 

The Assembly then took the following action:

 

"Forsuameikle as the brethren of the ministrie conveint in the Generall Assemblie hes with ane solemn humiliatione acknowledgit their sinnes this day, and negligence in their conscience before God, and hes interit in ane new covenant in their charges, and seeing ane great part of the ministrie is not present at this actione; Therefore the Kirk commands their brethren of the Synodall Assemblies to make the lyke solemn humiliatione and protestatione as it was observit be the Generall, at their next convening, and so many as beis not at their Synodall, to doe it at their presbyteries.[62]"

 

There is no record of a formally worded covenant. Indeed, the Moderator does not appear so much to be leading a collective covenant renewal as to be asking those who had privately renewed their personal covenant with God to acknowledge it openly. From the examples available, the sermons which accompanied these occasions of covenant renewal made no mention of national or political issues. David Black took Joshua 24 as his text.[63] James Melville majored on rededication, preaching from passages like Ezra 10 and Nehemiah 10, and reminding his hearers that as they broke their covenant with God daily, they daily needed to renew it. While the texts referred to Israel communally and individually, the application appears to have been personal rather than national.[64]

 

After further changes in the political climate, in 1612, James VI was, again, able to impose Episcopacy; and by 1616, he had ordered a new liturgy and book of canons be drafted which were to include kneeling to receive the Lord’s Supper, private communion, private baptism, the participation of bishops in confirmation, and the observance of Holy Days (such as Christmas and Easter). Two years later, these specific items were passed into ecclesiastical legislation and became known as the “Five Articles of Perth”. In 1619, David Calderwood wrote in opposition. As part of his argument, he took up the 1581 Negative Confession and added to it the covenant renewal of 1596. He appears to be making three points.[65] The first is that the Negative Confession was part of the 1596 General Assembly’s covenant renewal. This is debated.[66] There is no mention of such an oath in the contemporary records: even Calderwood’s own History. Yet, the belief that the 1581 Confession was part of the covenant renewal was still current in 1637.[67] The second is that the 1581 Confession, either on its own or as part of the covenant renewal, is perpetually binding; yet, there does not appear to be any reference to posterity or further renewal in either. The third is that the 1581 Confession is linked, through baptism, to the covenant of grace:

 

"The young ones were not excepted in our oath: for the Parents did bind for them, when they were baptized, to bring them up in the confession of faith, as it was then professed in the Kirk, as grounded upon, and consonant unto the covenant of grace made betwixt God and men for themselves and for their seed."

 

Here, Calderwood has made a connexion between the Covenant of Grace and a profession of faith which he understands to be a responsive covenant against idolatry. However, it is based on two debatable points. The first is that the 1581 Confession was part of the faith professed by the Kirk. The second is that it was part of the confession of faith made at a baptism. Alexander Henderson, describing the practice of the Church of Scotland in 1641, says, “[H]e that presenteth the childe, maketh confession of the Faith, into which the childe is to be Baptized, and promiseth to bring up the childe in that Faith, and in the fear of God.”[68] According to The Book of Common Order, or “Knox’s Liturgy”, the confession of the Faith into which the child was baptised was The Apostles’ Creed.[69] The admonition made to the parent or surety is to include words to the effect that it is his duty to provide that the children “be instructed in all doctrine necessary for a true Christian, chiefly that they be taught to rest upon the justice of Jesus Christ alone, and to abhor and flee all superstition, Papistry, and idolatry”. While this does give the form of words which Calderwood desires, it does not quite meet his claim of being part of the Faith confessed. These difficulties notwithstanding, Calderwood maintains, along with Carmichael, Knox’s ideas of covenant. The form of the 1581 Confession of Faith is not covenantal, but its content resonates with Knox’s demand for a covenant commitment to flee idolatry.

 

Returning to the National Covenant, the signatories say that they have renewed their covenant with God. A profession of faith in Christ for salvation is considered to be a personal responsive covenant to the offers and promises of the Covenant of Grace. From the days of Knox, fleeing superstition and idolatry was part of that commitment. The Negative Confession is seen as a supplement to a profession of faith and is included in the signatory’s personal responsive covenant; it is the covenant being renewed.

 

As “a Covenant with God, the King’s Majesty, and among ourselves”, the National Covenant is at the same time a responsive covenant, a social contract between the King and his subjects, and a band for the signatories’ mutual defence. This first is made with God and the latter two are made before Him.

 

E. Scripture and Circumstance.

 

Returning to the special relationship between God and Scotland, that idea can be found in the Covenanters application of Scripture to circumstances. Unfortunately, the relevant passages are not the texts expounded in addresses but those taken up as illustrations, explications of divisions of the text, allusions, or as scriptural parallels to current events.

 

As seen above, Knox defines the Covenant of Grace in terms of promise and obligation. In the context of his writing, the relevant obligation is fleeing from strange gods and not sparing idolaters. God placed a covenant obligation on Israel to destroy the Canaanite altars, idols, and groves (Exodus 34) and Israel responded in the days of Josiah (2 Kings 23) and Asa (2 Chronicles 15). Carmichael views the Negative Confession as a covenant made with God and the King and likens it to the covenants and by Jehoash (2 Kings 11; 2 Chronicles 23) for clarity and by David (2 Samuel 5) for freeness. At the 1596 covenant renewal, sermons were preached from Joshua 24, Ezra 10, and Nehemiah 9 and 10. Looking at the passages, several elements come to the fore.

 

First, these are responsive covenants. God made a covenant with Israel at Horeb. Many of these covenants are responses to God’s original covenant initiative. The people recommit themselves to God using the medium of responsive covenants which highlight the relevant areas in which they have fallen away from God’s demands.

 

Second, on the one hand, they might be described as covenant renewals in the sense that they are re-dedicatory responses to God’s covenant. However, on the other, the responsive covenants appear to be individual acts.

 

Third, the covenants and the parties to them are not always stated simply. Taking 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 23 together, under Jehoiada’s guidance, Jehoash and the people made a covenant with the LORD (or Jehoash made a covenant with the LORD and then the people did the same), and Jehoash made a covenant with the people. In this instance, there is both a responsive covenant and a social contract. Josiah made a covenant with the Lord and then the people associated themselves with him in it. In Asa’s time, Judah entered into covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers and they swore an oath to the LORD with a loud voice. It is unclear whether they made a covenant among themselves to seek the LORD and then swore an oath to Him that they would keep their covenant, or whether the covenant and the oath are the same thing. In Ezra and Nehemiah, there are covenants made with the LORD. Joshua either made a covenant with the people or for the people: he might have entered a social contract with them to serve the LORD; he might have made a responsive covenant with the LORD as their representative; or he might have done something which involved elements of both. When David made a covenant with the people before the LORD, it was a social contract witnessed by God. Looking, then, at these biblical covenants, there are responsive covenants made with God, there are social contracts, and there are possible combinations of the two or processes which involve both.

 

Applying covenant language to the Negative Confession, as to form, it is a social contract covenant made by the signatories before God. As to content, it resembles a responsive covenant made with God regarding idolatry. If content – opposing idolatry – is more important than form to the person likening scriptural examples to subscribing the Confession, it is easy to see how a social contract concerning the reformation of religion and claiming God as witness could be presented as a responsive covenant of rededication made with Him.

 

If all the Old Testament references are brought together, there are covenants made with God, the king, and among the people. The General Assembly might well think that its Covenant is not without biblical precedent.

 

As the National Covenant was sent throughout the country to garner signatures, prominent ministers were sent to key places to give explanatory addresses: addresses which bring together Scripture and context. Andrew Cant, for example, gave an exhortation at Inverness in which he set out his case for signing the document.[70]

Cant begins by contrasting God’s providential gifts to Scotland with His dispensation of grace. He wonders that the light of the glorious gospel has shone upon such base soil, leaving Scotland inferior to none in God’s gracious dispensation: “How far other nations outstripped her in naturals, as far did she out go them in spirituals.” England has “but an ill-said mass in English”; even Geneva has kept some of the holy-days. Of Scotland it could have been said, “This is Bethel, God is here.”

 

“But Alas!” This is no longer the case. Cant now describes the work of Satan in undermining this “Bethel”. In worship, “simplicity” has lost place to “whorish buskings”; and, in government, “feeders” have lost place to “fleecers”. Rather than building Jerusalem, they are rebuilding Jericho. Scotland has become “an apostate perjured nation, by our breaking a blessed covenant so solemnly sworn”.

 

“Yet, behold!” A backsliding people might return. And that return has begun:

But now, behold one of God’s wonders! So many of all ranks taking the honour and cause of Christ to heart; all unanimously, harmoniously and legally conjoined as one man in supplications, protestations and declarations against innovations and innovators, corruptions and corrupters. Behold and wonder! That old covenant (once and again solemnly sworn and perfidiously violated) is now again happily renewed, with such solemnity, harmony, oaths and subscriptions, that I dare say, this hath been more real and true in thee, O Scotland, these few weeks by-gone, than for the space of thirty years before.

 

Nevertheless, Cant acknowledges that there is opposition to this renewal. He likens the opposition to Pashur who struck Jeremiah, Zedekiah who struck Micaiah, and Tobiah, Sanballat, Rehum, and Shimshai who opposed Nehemiah. Yet, he says that the Hamans, the Gehazis, and the Simon Maguses are about to fall; that the Lord is calling on His people not to keep back, but rather, to “contend for the faith once delivered to Scotland”. He exhorts his hearers not to be like the nobles of Tekoa in the days of Nehemiah, nor like those who mocked at Hezekiah’s covenant renewal, nor like those who offered excuses instead of coming to the king’s supper; but rather, they should be “like those whose hearts the Lord has humbled and moved”. They should come and “kiss the Son”, “lend His fallen truths a lift”, and “help to build the old wastes”. “Nothing,” he says is asked of them but what is “for God and the King”: for “Christ’s honour”, “the Kirk’s good”, and “the kingdom’s peace”.

 

For Cant, the 1581 Confession of Faith has the status of a covenant. It is the high point of God’s gracious dealings with Scotland and its renewal is the heart of the National Covenant.[71] This covenant renewal is likened to that of Hezekiah and to the rebuilding of Jerusalem under Nehemiah. Cant follows very much in the line of Carmichael and Calderwood. There is an appeal to the biblical covenants, but not as formulised in the developing covenant theology of his day. There is more than a little nationalistic sentiment expressed. There is also here, in his use of Nehemiah, a reference to a situation where a distant king is ill-served by his advisors; by using this biblical allusion, Cant is able to deflect any charges of treason which might be made against the covenanting movement.[72]

 

Alexander Henderson, who drafted the third part of the Covenant, the band, preached a number of sermons in the months between the signing of the National Covenant in February and the Glasgow General Assembly in November of 1638. In a recent study, Donald Macleod says:

 

"These sermons are in the strictest sense homilies, content to expound the text (usually a short one), reflecting careful exegesis and following the divisions of the text itself. They also clearly reflect Henderson’s historical context, not because the texts were twisted to suit the circumstances, but because they suited the circumstances. Several were clearly preached as encouragements to sign the National Covenant of 1638 and, from that point of view, might well be described as ‘war sermons’, but they are far from inflammatory. Others were specifically connected to the administration of the Lord’s Supper, and reflect a pattern of ‘Communion Season’ already well established in Scotland by the 1630s. Scottish practice was clearly doing full justice to Calvin’s insistence that ‘the mystery be well explained to the people’.[73]"

 

The sermons are accessible and direct in their language and style. In another recent study, L. Charles Jackson[74] uses the word “simplicity”. However, as Macleod points out, Henderson uses scholastic distinctions and “does not confine [his hearers] to the theological shallows”.[75] Bringing their thoughts together, Henderson believes that his hearers lack formal education, not intelligence; and he addressed them accordingly.

 

Speaking in general, Coffey says, “Whilst it is often asserted that covenant theology inspired the idea of a national covenant, the precise relationship between the two is usually left vague.”[76] One possible reason for that vagueness may be that the covenanting movement and covenant theology developed in Scotland over the same period, but in parallel rather than in unison. Howie and Rollock are writing about the Covenant of Works in the 1590s[77] at the same time as Davidson is pushing for covenant renewal in the General Assembly. Yet, John Johnston[78], a colleague and supporter of Andrew Melville’s, wrote to Piscator saying that he thought Howie’s covenant theology was not consistent with a “true and legitimate method” of handling theology[79]. Also, Rollock refused to lead the covenant renewal in 1596.[80] Whether this was because Howie and Rollock did not share the same political views as the Melvillians,[81] or because of differences in covenant theology is not known. The extent to which the developing covenant theology meshed or clashed with Melvillian views on covenanting seems to be an area yet to be explored.

 

David Dickson[82] introduced the Covenant of Redemption in his address to the covenanting General Assembly of 1638.[83] How Dickson’s views of national covenanting and covenant theology were inter-related is another area of study which does not seem to have been explored.

 

Speaking specifically of Henderson, both Jackson and Macleod address the relationship between national covenanting and covenant theology. A difficulty arises in that both, anachronistically, impose a Bogazkoy[84] influenced biblical-theological grid on Henderson’s expression of the covenant theology of his day: Jackson speaking of blessings and cursings, and Macleod speaking of hesed. Another difficulty arises because Henderson was preaching, not writing a treatise. Nevertheless, he does expound a theology of covenant and does relate it to the National Covenant.

 

In a sermon on 2 Corinthians 7:1[85], Henderson sets out a covenant theology of promises. He says that there are the promises of the law and the promises of the gospel. The promises of the law are dependent upon perfect obedience to the commandments of God, severally and collectively. The promises of the gospel, the new covenant, are twofold. There are conditional promises: “If we believe and repent, we sall have salvation.” “There are also absolute promises (and it is only that makes the evangelical promises to be so far beyond the legal), that he sall infuse these conditions of faith and repentance in us.” “But we, because we cannot obey, and so live by doing, therefore we must continually run to Christ, and live by faith in him, having his promise.” “And therefore, I would have all of you to strive to have these promises in your understanding and heart; then to have faith to believe them; and then to have them in your memories, to bring them out when ye have ado with them; and to have them in your mouth, to make profession of the them.”

 

Further, in another sermon, Henderson says:

 

"The Lord God, he takes his people into his bosom, and with every soul he does so, and says, “I the Lord thy God enters in covenant with thee and, renews the covenant that before I made with thee.” And then he lays a necessity upon thee, by his providence, that thou must enter in covenant with him; and then he says to thee, “I will not remember thy sins any more; I know they are heinous, great, and many, but because thou desires that they should not be remembered, therefore I will not remember them. And because when ye have renewed your covenant with me, ye will be aye in a fear to break it again, there I will write my law in your hearts. And so whatever I promise to you, I will perform it freely when ye are in covenant with me; and whatever ye promise to me, being in covenant with me, I sail perform it for you also, at least I sail give you strength to perform it.” And therefore to the end that ye may be perfectly blessed, enter in a covenant with God; and without ye be in covenant with him, ye shall be in nothing but perpetual misery.[86]"

 

For Henderson, the Covenant of Grace requires not only a covenant response, but a responsive covenant.[87] The covenant response is a profession and/or confession of faith.[88] In the context in which the sermons were preached, the Negative Confession, the first part of the National Covenant, is presented as an integral part of a rounded confession of faith: a confession of faith before men which is, at the same time, a covenant entered into with God. Those who subscribed the Negative Confession of 1581 made a covenant with God and placed the nation in a unique relationship to Him. The National Covenant is a renewing of that covenant relationship.[89] Yet, physical subscription does not necessarily bring with it the expected spiritual change: “Ye have gone als far as ye can in a profession, in a confession of your faith, in making a covenant with God, and swearing and subscribing to it; and yet, for all that, the most part of you has no more delight in the means of the service and worship of God than ye had before.”[90]

 

To the extent that Henderson’s preaching deals with the National Covenant, it focuses on the renewal of the Negative Confession and the inward change necessary to keep the outward commitment “to endeavour to keep ourselves within the bounds of Christian liberty, and to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness, and righteousness, and to every duty we owe to God and man”.[91] The band of mutual defence is mentioned but not emphasised.[92]

 

Henderson sets out the Covenant of Grace in a way which reflects Rollock’s writings[93] published forty years earlier and the Westminster Confession of Faith[94] completed eight years later. His soteriology is that of the covenant theology of his day: as Jackson says, “Henderson’s preaching was evangelical”.[95] However, Henderson adds the theme of responsive covenants which belongs more to the days of Knox, a time before covenant became the architectonic principle in Reformed soteriology. It is this added theme which is emphasised in his preaching. Henderson’s covenant preaching focuses not only on God’s Covenant of Grace with man but also with man’s covenants with God. It is preaching which embraces the relationship of a sovereign and faithful covenant God with a sinful and vacillating covenant people, and, more pertinently, vice versa. His covenant preaching addresses the struggles of sanctification: struggles with iniquity in the heart and idolatry in the church.

 

In his sermons, Henderson does not deal with the tensions between the developing covenant theology and the older Knoxian scheme.[96] For example, what is the relationship between faith and a commitment to extirpate idolatry?[97]

 

From Knox and the Lords of the Congregation to the National Covenant, applying the responsive covenants made by the Israelites to the times is primarily how covenant is preached. The Negative Confession is a responsive covenant being renewed in the National Covenant. The covenant to which it is a response is the Covenant of Grace.

 

F. Conclusion.

 

Was Wednesday the 28th of February 1638 “that glorious marriage day of the Kingdom with God”? It was a great day; and Warriston, with his personal involvement, had every reason to be exultant. Yet, according to the party line, he was mistaken. The narrative of the marriage of Scotland to God had to be that there was a betrothal in 1560, followed by a wedding in 1581; after a number of estrangements and reconciliations, Scotland committed adultery in 1618; but, on February 28th, 1638, Scotland returned to God and renewed her marriage vows. The Covenanters of 1638 had to tread carefully. To promote their cause, they had to play up renewal in order to play down rebellion. In his excitement, Warriston seems to have forgotten the message which Henderson had so judiciously composed.[98]

 

That said, John Coffey’s idea of fusion is stimulating. The General Assembly of August 1639 described the Covenant best when he said that it was “a Covenant with God, the King’s Majesty, and among ourselves”.

 

As a covenant among themselves, it is not the first such band. When the leading Protestant nobles joined together in 1558 to declare their support of the Reformation, they made their promise before God and His congregation. When James VI needed to allay fears of counter-Reformation influences in his court, he had a “confession” drawn up which was subscribed before God and the whole world. The Covenanters in 1638 made their solemn declaration before God, His angels, and the whole world. Although the subject matter in all three cases concerns religion, the form which the composers chose to express themselves was that of a social contract. They covenanted together with God as their witness. They made no public covenant with Him as a party.

 

As a social contact of mutual defence, it is a band in the established sense of the word. The openness and scale might be unusual, but, conceptually, there is nothing new here.

As a covenant with the King, it is conditioned by Duns Scotus’ social contract theory, Buchanan’s telling of Scotland’s constitutional history, and the declaration of national identity found key documents from the Wars of Independence. In it, the signatories pledge, before God, a conditional loyalty to the executive of a limited and mixed monarchy. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the National Covenant, as a social contract, is not so much revolutionary as reactionary: reactionary in the sense that it seeks a return to a greatly idealised past of Reformation attainments[99] and pre-absentee constitutional monarchy.

 

The National Covenant, then, is a social contract. Nevertheless, the General Assembly said that it was a covenant with God. The only mention of such a covenant in the document itself is in a paragraph which contains the idea that those who are subscribing the National Covenant have renewed their covenant with God. Were that paragraph removed, the Covenant would be a coherent and complete social contract. Yet, while the paragraph seems like an addendum, it is key to understanding what the signatories thought that they were doing. On paper, they were renewing the Negative Confession and subscribing a new general band which met the needs of 1638 rather than those of 1590, but Rothes and the General Assembly said that it was a covenant with God.

 

All the evidence points to the Negative Confession being the covenant which is being renewed, even though it does not come in covenant form. Carmichael likens it to biblical covenants; rightly or wrongly, Calderwood and Gillespie believe it to be part of the covenant renewal of 1596; Calderwood considers it to be included in baptismal vows; for Cant, it is that old covenant sworn, violated, and renewed; and, Henderson sees it in terms of a response to God’s Covenant of Grace. In this line of thinking, the Negative Confession is a covenant in response to the Covenant of Grace; the 15-year-old James VI is Jehoash; and, with far-reaching consequences, that which was once based on hagiographical myth and Papal decree has been recast in biblical terms: Scotland is Judah.

 

David McKay[100] shows that the origins of the doctrine of the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ over the Nations which, along with political dissent, defines the Covenanters of the 18th century and their successors is found in the rhetoric of Richard Cameron. It appears that, similarly, the doctrine of national covenanting can be traced to the rhetoric of Carmichael and Calderwood. In their writings, there is neither a clear hermeneutic which correlates the Old Testament Theocracy to Scotland, nor detailed exegesis and application of the passages used to correlate the Negative Confession with the biblical examples of responsive covenants. Yet, by 1638, the people of Scotland are renewing their covenant with God. The Negative Confession is the shared text of a personal covenant made publicly with God in response to His Covenant of Grace.[101]

 

In signing the National Covenant, the subscriber, by the same act, makes a covenant with three parties: God, the King, and like-minded fellow Scots. The covenant as made with the latter two is a social contract and distinct from the former. The covenant as made with God is a renewal of the Negative Confession understood as a responsive covenant to the Covenant of Grace. It is not, then, a fusion of Knox’s anti-idolatry covenants and Buchanan’s social contracts which explains the concept behind the National Covenant, but the fusion of professions/confessions of faith and responsive covenants with God in the writings of Carmichael, Calderwood, Cant, and Henderson. Buchanan and Knox are separate influences;[102] and Buchanan’s social contracts are secondary to Knox’s covenants. The social contracts defend the renewed covenant.

 

This separation is recognised in the way that historians have picked one influence or the other to summarise the idea of national covenanting. Writing of the period from 1550 to 1700, James Mackie says that “[t]he conception of a people contracted together before God to defend a religious conviction was to become the Palladium of the Scottish reformers for a century and a half”.[103] Yet, Gordon Donaldson says that “the concept of the covenant as a perpetual undertaking by the people of Scotland and as a contract between them and God was one which was to harness the vitality of a nation”.[104] While Mackie describes what was actually and consistently done on paper, Donaldson describes what, certainly by the August of 1638, the Covenanters said that they had done. Taking renewal of the Negative Confession as the key to their understanding, that 1581 social contract between the royal court and the people was reinterpreted to be a covenant made between the nation and God; and the reinterpretation of that contract soon eclipsed the other contracts so carefully stated in the National Covenant. Again, band and covenant were not fused, but band was supplanted by covenant in the minds of the people.

 

The question of “national conceit” is awkward to answer. The National Covenant is a Scottish solution to a Scottish problem. To the extent that this Scottish problem has English dimensions, the issue of nationalism arises. To the extent that the problem involves comparing the progress of national churches along the road of reformation, the danger of spiritual pride is present; and when the difference in progress is explained in terms of a unique relationship with God, that danger is compounded. It is too much to say that the Covenanters provided national conceit with a theological foundation for they did not build one. Yet, in their rhetoric, Scotland is, in the Authorised Version’s usage of the word, peculiar[105]; and England, though geographically to the south, is the Northern Kingdom.

[1] J. D. Mackie, A History of Scotland (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978) 204.

[2] Text found in Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: FPP, 1994) 347-354.

[3] Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: James V – James VII (Edinburgh: O & B, 1978) 316.

[4] Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: James V – James VII (Edinburgh: O & B, 1978) 316.

[5] John Coffey, Politics, Religion, and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge: CUP, 1997)163-164.

[6] Margaret Steele quoted in L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 89, 101.

[7] Elizabeth Whitley, The Two Kingdoms (Edinburgh: Scottish Reformation Society, 1977) 61.

[8] J. D. Mackie, A History of Scotland (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978) 203-204; J. H. S. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (Edinburgh: Hope Trust, 1983) 217-218.

[9] L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 102, 130. Donald Maclean, Aspects of Scottish Church History (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1927) 46-47.

[10] J. H. S. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (Edinburgh: Hope Trust, 1983) 218.

[11] J. D. Mackie, A History of Scotland (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1978) 204. Laura Stewart writes: “The 1638 Covenant became one of the most profound experiences in Scottish history, not only because of a vast subscription campaign encompassing people of all social backgrounds, but also through the astonishing ambition of the vision behind it…. Its all-embracing inclusiveness was a genuine aspiration, not just a rhetorical device.” Quoted in L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 82, see also 91.

[12] William Guthrie, The Christian’s Great Interest (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994) 169-189.

[13] Leigh Eric Schmidt, Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period (Princeton: PUS, 1989) 134-137.

[14] Thomas McCrie, Jr, The Story of the Scottish Church (Glasgow: FPP, 1988) 145.

[15] William Guthrie, The Christian’s Great Interest (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994) 180-183.

[16] Elizabeth Whitley, The Two Kingdoms (Edinburgh: Scottish Reformation Society, 1977) 61.

[17] Karin Bowie, ‘A Legal Limited Monarchy’: Scottish Constitutionalism in the Union of Crowns, 1603-1707, (http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/108510/1/108510.pdf, accessed 2017-12-08) 12.

[18] The Covenants and the Covenanters (Edinburgh: R. W. Hunter, n.d.) 52. Similar language is found in the National Covenant itself: “national oath and subscription” and “profession and subscription”.

[19] Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: FPP, 1994) 346.

[20] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Five (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 49-52.

[21] Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: FPP, 1994) 346.

[22] Samuel Rutherford, Rex Lex (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1982) 192.

[23] Samuel Rutherford, Rex Lex (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1982) 224-226. Karin Bowie , in ‘A Legal Limited Monarchy’: Scottish Constitutionalism in the Union of Crowns, 1603-1707, (http://eprints.gla.ac.uk/108510/1/108510.pdf, accessed 2017-12-08) says: “George Buchanan’s Dialogue of 1578 asserted that the law was above the king while his 1582 History attempted to show that the Scottish realm had been founded in ancient times on a principle of elective monarchy by which a king could be removed if he did not respect the law.” See also, L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 126 and 132 n. 236, where, following John Coffey, it is said that Buchanan’s History was relied upon more that his Dialogue because the Covenanters had “little use for Buchanan’s populist theory of king killing” found in the latter.

[24] George Buchanan, “De Jure Regni Apud Scotos”, in Samuel Rutherford, Rex Lex (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1982) 266.

[25] Alexander Broadie, History of Scottish Philosophy (Edinburgh: EUP, 2008) 25-33.

[26] http://www.rps.ac.uk/search.php?a=fcf&fn=roberti_trans&id=284&t=trans Accessed 2017-12-21.

[27] Samuel Rutherford, Rex Lex (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1982) 224-226.

[28] http://www.constitution.org/scot/arbroath.htm Accessed 2017-12-21.

[29] Margaret Steele quoted in L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 89, 101.

[30] Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: James V – James VII (Edinburgh: O & B, 1978) 315.

[31] W. Croft Dickinson, Revised and Edited by Archibald A. M. Duncan, Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603 (Oxford: OUP, 1977) 131-133; Michael Brown, The Wars of Scotland 1214-1371 (Edinburgh: EUP, 2004) 192, 280.

[32] Jeremiah chapters three and thirty-one; and Ezekiel chapter sixteen.

[33] Samuel Rutherford, Letters (Edinburgh: 1894) 87-89, 297.

[34] L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 130: “[Alexander] Henderson, like [George] Gillespie and other Scottish preachers, likened Scotland to Israel, which, as a covenanted nation, was the bride of Jehovah.”

[35] William Croft Dickinson, ed., John Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950) Vol. II, 3.

[36] Alexander Hume, Ane afold Admonitioun to the Ministrie of the Church of Scotland by a Deing Brother, 4, 12-13, appended to his Hymns and Sacred Songs (Edinburgh: 1832).

[37] George Gillespie, A Dispute Against The English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded On The Church of Scotland (Dallas: Naphtali Press, 1993) xxviii-xxix.

[38] Elizabeth Whitley, The Two Kingdoms (Edinburgh: Scottish Reformation Society, 1977) 61.

[39] J. D. Mackie, A History of the Scottish Reformation (Edinburgh: Church of Scotland youth Committee, 1960) 66-67.

[40] J. D. Mackie, A History of the Scottish Reformation (Edinburgh: Church of Scotland youth Committee, 1960) 66-67.

[41] Richard L. Greaves, Theology and Revolution in the Scottish Reformation (Grand Rapids: Christian University Press, 1980) 116.

[42] Richard L. Greaves, Theology and Revolution in the Scottish Reformation (Grand Rapids: Christian University Press, 1980) 114-125.

[43] Andrew A. Woolsey, Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2012) 499-511.

[44] N. M. de S. Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993) 459; Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: FPP, 1994) 348-349.

[45] N. M. de S. Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993) 231.

[46] J. H. S. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (Edinburgh: Hope Trust, 1983) 155.

[47] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Three (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1843) 502.

[48] James Cooper, Confessions of Faith and Formulas of Subscription (Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1907) 30.

[49] The Covenants and the Covenanters (Edinburgh: R. W. Hunter, n.d.) 108.

[50] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Three (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1843) 502.

[51] Alexander Peterkin, ed., The Book of the Universal Kirk of Scotland (Edinburgh: 1839) 219.

[52] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Five (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 37-49.

[53] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Five (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 49-52.

[54] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Five (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 48.

[55] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Five (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 87.

[56] N. M. de S. Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993) 78; W. Croft Dickinson, Revised and Edited by Archibald A. M. Duncan, Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603 (Oxford: OUP, 1977) 373.

[57] David Laing, ed., The Miscellany of the Wodrow Society, Volume One (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 440-444.

[58] David George Mullan, Scottish Puritanism 1590-1638 (Oxford: OUP, 2000) 181-182.

[59] John Row, The Historie of the Kirk of Scotland (Edinburgh: Maitland Club, 1842) 38-39. Donald Macleod points out that “according to G. D. Henderson there is no evidence of the word ‘covenant’ being used in a theological or ecclesiastical sense in Scotland prior to 1596, when John Davidson of Prestonpans urged the members of the General Assembly ‘to make solemn promise before the majesty of God and make a new Covenant with Him for a more reverent and careful discharging of their ministry.’” [Donald Macleod, “Alexander Henderson: Reformed Orthodoxy and Constitutional Crisis in Scotland” in Aaron Clay Denlinger, ed., Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland, Essays in Scottish Theology 1560-1775 (London: Bloomsbury) 153] On the one hand, G. D. Henderson has not taken Knox’s and Carmichael’s use of covenant into account. On the other, the 1596 covenant renewal appears to be the first use of the word in an organised public setting.

[60] Alexander Peterkin, ed., The Book of the Universal Kirk of Scotland (Edinburgh: 1839) 426.

[61] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Five (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 406-407.

[62] Alexander Peterkin, ed., The Book of the Universal Kirk of Scotland (Edinburgh: 1839) 431.

[63] David George Mullan, Scottish Puritanism 1590-1638 (Oxford: OUP, 2000) 190.

[64] David George Mullan, Scottish Puritanism 1590-1638 (Oxford: OUP, 2000) 190-192.

[65] David Calderwood, Perth Assembly (Puritan Reprints, 2006) 44-45. This book was printed anonymously. Some at the time thought that it had been written by William Scot, John Carmichael, and Alexander Henderson. [L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 34]

[66] David George Mullan, Scottish Puritanism 1590-1638 (Oxford: OUP, 2000) 191.

[67] George Gillespie, A Dispute Against The English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded On The Church of Scotland (Dallas: Naphtali Press, 1993) 449.

[68] Alexander Henderson, The Government and Order of the Church of Scotland (1641) 19.

[69] Sprott and Leishman, eds., Book of Common Order of the Church of Scotland commonly known as John Knox's liturgy: and the Directory for Public Worship of God agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1868) 139.

[70] The Covenants and The Covenanters (Edinburgh: R.W. Hunter) 77-82. See also, L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 132.

[71] The Covenants and The Covenanters (Edinburgh: R.W. Hunter) 80.

[72] The Covenants and The Covenanters (Edinburgh: R.W. Hunter) 80.

[73] Donald Macleod, “Alexander Henderson: Reformed Orthodoxy and Constitutional Crisis in Scotland” in Aaron Clay Denlinger, ed., Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland, Essays in Scottish Theology 1560-1775 (London: Bloomsbury) 149.

[74] L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 112.

[75] Donald Macleod, “Alexander Henderson: Reformed Orthodoxy and Constitutional Crisis in Scotland” in Aaron Clay Denlinger, ed., Reformed Orthodoxy in Scotland, Essays in Scottish Theology 1560-1775 (London: Bloomsbury) 151.

[76] John Coffey, Politics, Religion, and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge: CUP, 1997)163-164.

[77] Andrew A. Woolsey, Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2012) 512-539.

[78] N. M. de S. Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993) 447.

[79] Andrew A. Woolsey, Unity and Continuity in Covenantal Thought (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2012) 517-518.

[80] David Calderwood, The History of the Church of Scotland, Volume Five (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1844) 401.

[81] N. M. de S. Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993) 415, 726.

[82] N. M. de S. Cameron, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993) 243.

[83] Beeke & Jones, A Puritan Theology (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2012) 239-240.

[84] George E. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East (Biblical Colloquium; Pittsburgh, PA: Presbyterian Board of Colportage of Western Pennsylvania, 1955)

[85] Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 415.

[86] Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 14-15.

[87] Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 93, 116, 142.

[88] Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 240, 254.

[89] Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 7, 20, 28, 262,381.

[90] Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 343. This was also a concern of Samuel Rutherford’s [John Coffey, Politics, Religion, and the British Revolutions: The Mind of Samuel Rutherford (Cambridge: CUP, 1997)166].

[91] See Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 246, and the National Covenant [Westminster Confession of Faith (Glasgow: FPP, 1994) 353].

[92] Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses (Edinburgh: John Maclaren) 29.

[93] Robert Rollock, Select Works (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008) Vol. 1, 38-51.

[94] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter Seven, Section Three.

[95] L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 117.

[96] L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 80-81. Donald Macleod, Therefore the Truth I Speak (Fearn: CFP, 2020) 172-176.

[97] See L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 129.

[98] L. Charles Jackson, Riots, Revolutions, and the Scottish Covenanters: The Work of Alexander Henderson (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2015) 84-87.

[99] The highwater marks of which are listed in the middle section of the National Covenant.

[100] David McKay, “From Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Christ”, in ed. Anthony T. Selvaggio, The Faith Once Delivered (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2007) 135-169, especially 145-147.

[101] See Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland (By authority of Synod; 1990) 14-22.

[102] Any mention of the joint influences of Buchanan and Knox cannot pass without reference to Andrew Melville (1545-1622). In many ways, he was the successor to both men. He was also a link between them and later generations: particularly, Carmichael, Davidson, Calderwood, and Henderson. What his influence on their thought and action might have been is beyond the scope of this essay, but the initial success of the National Covenant was a Melvillian moment.

[103] J. D. Mackie, A History of the Scottish Reformation (Edinburgh: Church of Scotland youth Committee, 1960) 66.

[104] Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: James V – James VII (Edinburgh: O & B, 1978) 316.

[105] 1 Peter 2:9