The Solemn League and Covenant and its Binding Nature on America

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The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Isaiah 24:5
They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. Jeremiah 50:5

The Solemn League & Covenant. The alliance between the English Parliament and the Scottish Covenanters was sealed with the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant by both Houses of Parliament and the Scottish commissioners on September 25 1643.

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Alexander Henderson wrote at the Address of the Solemn League and Covenant,

“It is the best work of faith, to join in covenant with God, the best work of love and Christian communion, to join in covenant with the people of God; the best work of the best zeal, to join in covenant for reformation, against the enemies of God and religion; the best work of true loyalty, to join in covenant for the preservation of our king and superiors; and the best proof of natural affection, (and to be without natural affection is one of the great sins of the Gentiles) to join in covenant for defence of our native country, liberties and law: such as from these necessary ends do withdraw, and are not willing to enter into covenant, have reason to enter into their own hearts, and to look into their faith, love, zeal, loyalty, and natural affection.” ~ Alexander Henderson, The Solemn League and Covenant Address at Westminster

But is the Solemn League and Covenant still binding? And if it is then is it binding on the United States of America?

Historically All Covenanters held to the Solemn League and Covenant is binding and that it continues to bind on America. We believe it bind people, nations and churches. It was Seceder Church who did not. Seceders were those who broke away from the Solemn League and Covenant. They seceding from it and recognized the King of England after the Revolutionary Settlement of 1689. They became part of the New Established Church in Scotland that was permitted under English Dominion. They are the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Churches. So the debate we are seeing today is not a debate in Covenanter circles (such discussions were finished historically and Covenanters agreed that the SL&C is binding) but a continuing debate between Covenanters and Seceders. Many today who say they are Covenanters are sometimes in a Seceder church and hold to Seceder Principles.

Two separate Presbyterian lines developed in the 1600s. The Engagers/Resolutioners/Seceders which were Pro-Royalist and the Western Association/Protester-Remonstrators/Cameronian Line which was Anti-Royalist.

The Western Association was formed in 1648 by Patrick Gillespie (brother to George Gillespie), Guthrie and Johnston. In 1650 The Protesters/Remonstrators started their own society meetings away from the Resolutioners and the two camps held rival General Assemblies in Edinburgh in 1751with the Protesters/Remonstrator refusing to accept and acknowledge the other General Assembly of the Resolutioners..

The Remonstrators eventually became part of the Cameronians under Richard Cameron..

James Renwick believed that the Solemn League and Covenant remained binding and did not own the authority of the king of England. He went so far as to say that the other Presbyterians had apostatized for a little liberty.

“After Renwick had been captured and brought to Edinburgh, the Chancellor, Lord Perth, at his trial asked how he differed so much from other Presbyterians, who owned the authority of the king. Renwick answered that he adhered to the old Presbyterian principle which the Covenant had obliged all to maintain. From this, he added meaningfully, some had apostatized for a little liberty, they knew not how short, as they (his judges) had done for a little honor. (J.K. Hewison, The Covenanters, Vol. 2, p. 507).

John Guthrie said, “The Covenant did directly bind all following generations, “that our children after us be found walking in faith and love, that the Lord may dwell among us.” These are the very words of the Covenant. For what end were these words put in? Was it not to bind our posterity, and to keep uniformity and unity, and to bind them to the Word of God? But you will say, ‘there is no mention of the posterity.’ There was no mention of the posterity of Israel, when the people of Israel made that covenant with the Gibeonites, neither was there mention made of the Gibeonites’ posterity; yet you may see the covenant binding upon their posterity.”

After the Revolutionary settlement was ratified in 1689 many the Covenanters joined the Seceders and went over to the Established Church. But not all. Many continued to resist and did not accept the Revolutionary settlement. They saw it has a direct violation of the Solemn League and Covenant as well as to Scriptural principles. Thus they formed the United Societies. They became known as Society Men, Hillmen, and Cameronians.

It is often brought up at this point that the last ministers of the United Societies went into the revolutionary settlement church.

“The Parliament of 1690, while it rescinded the act which had declared the King supreme in causes ecclesiastical, left a mass of other pernicious legislation untouched on the statute books of the nation. The Act Recissory, which has rescinded the reforming legislation of the Second Reformation, was left untouched. The acts which condemned the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant as unlawful oaths, and the act which called the General Assembly of 1638 an unlawful and seditious Assembly, as well as other similar laws, were left untouched. Patronage was indeed abolished, but in its place a system was instituted by which the heritors and elders of a parish were given the right to nominate a minister when the parish was vacant, and the people themselves were to be permitted to accept or reject the candidate (reference Alexander Smellie’s Men of the Covenant)” pp.141-142, The Scottish Covenanters

But it should also be pointed out that though the last three ministers joined the settlement in 1689, the society people/cameronians who did not accept the settlement continued on. After the Revolution Settlement, all of the few remaining Covenanter ministers joined the Established Church in 1690, leaving the “United Societies” without any ministers for 16 years. For those 16 years the Dissenting Covenanters maintained their Societies for worship and religious correspondence. The Societies numbered about 20, with a general membership of about 7000 until a minister joined them after the 16 years..

But not all ministers of the United Societies went into the Revolution Settlement. The Rev. David Houston stayed with the Society People until his death in Northern Ireland in 1696.

The Covenanters, i.e. the RPs (Reformed Presbyterians) indeed are the really and truly lawful and legitimate descendants of the Church of Scotland of 1560 and as reasserted during the Second Reformation beginning in 1638.

But as for the establishment of the Church of Scoltand in 1690 in the context of the Glorious Revolutiion, the Cameronians never were a part of that as they viewed it as not in line with the National Covenant in 1638 or with the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643.

James Guthrie saw the binding nature of the Covenants for on the day of June 1st in the year 1661 James Guthrie was executed for his testimony, his faith and his stance on the Covenants. On the day of his execution he was to buy his life at the expense of retracting some of the things he had formerly said and done. After giving his speech he gave a copy of this- his last speech and testimony, subsribed and sealed, to a friend to keep, which he was to deliver to his son, then a child, when he came of age. When on the scaffold, he lifted the napkin off his face, just before he was turned over, and cried, “The Covenants, the Covenants, shall yet be Scotland’s reviving.”

James Guthrie’s head was fixed on the Netherbow, his estate to be confiscated and his arms torn.

So what has this to do with America? We can see that the Covenants are binding on the three kingdoms but America is not a part of those three kingdoms. We broke away from England and started a whole new nation.

America was a colony under British rule during the time of the ratification of the Solemn League and Covenant. The American Puritans and every body in America swore to the same oath that bound Scotland, Ireland and English. The death of our union with England does not change this fact nor does it nullify our Covenant oaths that we formerly made. National oaths in the Scripture continue to bind posterity even after the death of the parent nation or originator of the country. It cannot be annulled.

The RPCNA had once given an official statement on the issue that it was binding…

” The covenant of the British empire was renewed by the New-England Puritan Pilgrims, in the year 1644, by which they and all their descendants became formally bound. The colonies, at the time of entering into the Solemn League and Covenant, were an integral part of the British nation. They held their lands under the crown, and were governed by deputies of the throne, whom they acknowledged as their governors. The Boston renovation, demonstrates that they held themselves bound by the federal deed of the Lords and Commons, in 1643. The old Congress of 1774, solemnly claimed for themselves, and for the people of the colonies whom they represented “all the rights and immunities of British Citizens.” (See Marshall’s Life of Washington.) The most excellent part of their birthright and immunities, was, that they inherited a title to the covenant blessings of their ancestors, who entered into federal relations with the God of Israel. It may be said in reply to this, that they did not intend to claim the covenant birthright. It is admitted that they did not, and that in doing, so, they committed a great sin. Men often do things, when they do not understand their own transactions, as the Assyrian king fulfilled the counsel of the Lord, although “he meant not so, nor did his heart think so.” Isa. 10:7. ” -Testimony for Public Covenanting by the RPCNA, The Reformed Presbyterian. VOL. II. February, 1839. NO. XII

This was a one of several points that divided us Cameronian Covenanters from the Revolution Settlement in 1689 and why we remained outside of the Post-Revolution Church, while we were known as The United Societies of Scotland.

It should also be remember that we Covenanters renewed the Solemn League and Covenant in America in the year 1743 in Octorara Pennsylvania which led to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775 among Presbyterians in North Carolina.

In November, 1743, one hundred years after the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, Mr. Craighead gathered together all the Covenanters in Eastern Pennsylvania, at Middle Octorara, Lancaster County, and, after the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper, led them in the renewing of the Covenants. Here they declared, with uplifted swords, their independence of an ecclesiastical body that strangely upheld Erastian prelacy; and also declared their separation from the Crown which had so impiously violated Covenant engagements on both sides of the Atlantic. The proceedings were first printed in Philadelphia, in 1744, and re-printed in 1748, evidently by Benjamin Franklin, who editorially, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, refers to the matter.

Now that it has been established that the American colonies were under the Solemn league and Covenant while under Colonial rule since they also took the oaths when it was ratified, it now is on any person to proof that we are no longer under such obligation or that such an obligation ceases at the death of the progenitors or death of the union of the nations as well as any break from their colonial rule, contrary to Scripture and the Historic Covenanter view as found in “On the Duty of Covenanting and the Permanent Obligations of Religious Covenants” by William Roberts, 1853. We grand that that their are renovations in the Covenant in Boston (since we are no longer bound to the king of England and which was contingent on the king being faithful and carrying out his duty) but the substance of the Solemn League and Covenant of that which is not based on continued obligation of the King of England is fully binding on America..

“Q. Are public social covenants of continuous obligation? or, are they binding upon the posterity of the original covenanters, as long as the corporate body exists; or, until such time as the object for which they were framed has been accomplished?

A. They are; and this position is sustained by forcible arguments. 1. We find posterity recognised in the transaction between God and Jacob, at Bethel. Gen. xxviii. 13; compared with Hosea xii. 4. “He found him (Jacob) in Bethel, and there he spake with us.” 2. We have another remarkable instance of the transmission of covenant obligation to posterity in Deut. v. 2,3. “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers (only) but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.” 3. Another example occurs in Deut. xxix. 10-15; the covenant is here made with three descriptions of persons. 1. With those addressed adults. “Neither with you only.” 2. Minors. “Him that standeth here with us.” 3. Posterity. “Him that is not here with us this day”-for this could have no reference to any of the Israelites then in existence, as they were all present. It must, therefore, include posterity, together with all future accessions to the community. With them, Moses informs us, the covenant was made, as well as with those who actually entered into it, in the plains of Moab. 4. Another instance in which posterity is recognised in covenant obligation is found in Joshua ix.15. This covenant was made between the children of Israel and the Gibeonites. Between four and five hundred years after that time, the children of Israel are visited with a very severe famine, in the days of David. 2 Sam. xxi. 1. And it is expressly declared by the Lord that, “It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.” And at the same time, v. 2, that very covenant is recognised, and the breach of it is stated, as being the formal reason of the divine displeasure. Now, had it not been for this covenant, the extirpation of the Gibeonites would not have been imputed to Israel as a thing criminal; for they were comprehended in Caananitish nations, which God had commanded them to root out. 5. Posterity are charged with the sin of violating the covenant of their ancestors. Jer. xi. 10. “The house of Israel, and the house of Judah, have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers”-by which they are evidently considered as bound. 6. The principle of federal representation confirms this doctrine. Thus when Joseph made a covenant with his brethren, that they should carry up his bones from Egypt to the land of promise, he assumed that those whom he addressed, were the representatives of their successors, as he knew well that the whole of that generation should die before the deliverance of Israel by Moses. Posterity recognised the obligation. Ex. xiii. 19. A similar case of federal representation, is that of the Gibeonites quoted above. 6. Infant baptism is a forcible illustration of the continuous obligation of covenants. 7. The principle of the transmissibility of the obligations of covenants to posterity, is recognised by civilians in civil matters. In the obligations, for example, of the heir of an estate, for the engagements of his predecessor in the possession of it. All national treaties and other engagements of the corporate body, descend with all their weight upon succeeding generations.”

“Q. What is the reason of this continuous obligation of covenants?

A. 1. God will have it so. 2. The permanency of the subject coming under the obligation. The church and nations are corporations existing and perpetuated in the succession of generations-one generation passeth away and another cometh-the succeeding coming into the obligations of the preceding-and God as a party to such deeds always exists. 3. The sameness of the relation to the moral Governor of the universe. The corporation and all its members are related to God as moral subjects to a rightful sovereign. The duties being moral to which the covenant binds, by virtue of the moral relation of the corporate society to the Divine Sovereign in its successive generations, it is bound by the deed. 4. Obedience to God, according to his law, is a debt which not one generation can fully pay, and remains to each successive generation the same-hence the covenant obligation must be continuous. 5. Covenanting is a means of holiness-each successive generation needs to be sanctified, and consequently each successively needs this instrumentality-hencewith the stream of succeeding generations.”

Wilhelmus A’Brakel also believed that that the Solemn League and Covenant is binding.

“Secondly, also among men, covenants remain in force even after the first transgression. A succession of kings and authorities will not merely recall the initial transgression of a covenant by others, but will also bring out how frequently the existing covenant has been transgressed. A woman, having committed adultery, remains in covenant with her husband and is not released from it. As often as she involves herself with someone else after the first commission of sin, so often she commits adultery and each time again breaks the covenant. This clearly proves that transgression of a covenant does not release the transgressor from the covenant relationship.” Reasonable Service, 1:375.

We hold the federal deeds such as the covenant as well as the covenant blessings as carrying forth to the birth of the new nation, as a child from parent. Using the analogy without going to far, Britain was our parent and America the offspring and the children are bound to the solemn covenants. But the King of England, the Government violated the Covenant and disqualified themselves from rightful rule. All government is conditional according to the precepts laid down in scripture. This is why William Symington in Messiah the Prince did say that Romans 13 was not in reference to Nero but a contrast of a civil magistrate should be, again he used the issue of preceptive versus providential view, the same as the Testimony of 1761 and as the Testimony of 1741 states when speaking of Romans 13 and other new testament passages regarding civil magistracy, “We find, in the above cited Places of Scripture (Exod. 18.21, and Deut. 17.14), the Office, Duty, and End of the Civil Magistrate, as particularly described, as the Obedience and Subjection commanded to such; and therefore we think, the one is founded upon and tied to the other.”

So while we hold forth that the break in the nation caused and allowed for a Boston renovation to the Covenant the rest remains. The extent of honoring the King is strongly conditional on the extent of how he actively upheld the true Christian religion and both Tables of God’s Law (That from section III). A person would show honor to the King only if he upheld both Tables, not just because he is king!

So in conclusion. Yes we still hold forth that the Solemn League and Covenant is binding on the three kingdoms and Yes we still hold forth that the Solemn League and Covenant is binding on America and we should be continually reminded of this.

“Albeit the League and Covenant be despised by the prevailing party in England, and the work of uniformity through retardments and obstructions that have come in the way, be almost forgotten in these kingdoms, yet the obligation of that Covenant is perpetual, and all the duties contained therein are constantly to be minded, and prosecuted by every one of us and our posterity. – The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland. p. 460 At “Sess. 27, July 27, 1649, ante meridiem.—A seasonable and necessary Warning and Declaration, concerning present and imminent Dangers, and concerning Duties relating thereto, from the General Assembly of this Kirk unto all the Members thereof.”

I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Solemn League and Covenant is binding and it is binding on America.

The Solemn League and Covenant binds all people within the nations that swore to it. It binds families who swore to it and it binds churches as well.

Some may ask? “Can we not have a new Covenant?”, “One where we have a General Establishment and not a Presbyterian Establishment?”

The answer is no we can not. For the former Covenants continue to bind us and we will receive blessings or curses on how we uphold and acknowledge those Covenants which includes not a general Establishment clause but a particular Establishment clause. The United States does not have a choice in the matter whether to have a so-called general establishment or not.

But even without this I think the pluralism of a general establishment principle will start to cause alot of problems within the nation.

There is also an issue of oaths and vows here. One can argue that the Westminster Confession of Faith is not infallible and rightly so but once a oath has been taken to a Covenant and in this case the Solemn League and Covenant then unless it can be seen as sinful or unlawful in some way that would invalidate the oath then that oath must stand and it becomes rock solid.

But personally even without this I think the pluralism of a general establishment principle will start to cause alot of problems within the nation.

Then there is the issue for those of us like myself who not only had ancestors (My 8th great Grandfather back, James Nimmo, a Cameronian Covenanter fighter) who swore to the Solemn League and Covenant but I myself have as well.

So unless an oath can be seen as an unlawful oath those nations, churches, and people who have sworn to a covenant league such as the Solemn League and Covenant does not have a choice in the matter It requires uniformity in doctrine and worship, it requires the defense of the true reformed faith, it requires suppression of heresy and false worshippers and it requires the elimination of papacy/prelacy, etc.

So let us join our voices together in unity with James Guthrie and cry out with all that we are, with a slight modification to his last words, “The Covenants, the Covenants shall yet be America’s as well as those of the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland’s reviving.”

Oaths have been Sworn

Vows have been Taken

Honour your vows

for

King And Covenant

Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God. But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.” Psalm 68:1-3

O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth a wood, and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm. Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O Lord. Let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame, and perish: That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Yahovah, art the most high over all the earth.” -Psalm 83:14-18

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