Holiness and Holiness Standards Among Reformed Covenanters

walking in holiness


Do Reformed Covenanters have Holiness Standards? Well maybe not so much today (this is an issue and spiritual matter we must recover). But historically Covenanters have had Holiness Standards. “Gasp! Someone may say, blah such legalism” but Holiness and Holiness Standards are not optional for a true believer nor is it legalism. Reformed Christians have always believe in the continuing force of God’s moral law, not for Justification but Sanctification, as a rule of life.

Nor is having Scriptural derived standards, legalistic. We are not adding to the law of God. So whether it is a holiness matter that deals with worship, or the holiness of the Sabbath to even the lesser matters of the law, modesty, sobriety, moderation, head veiling, makeup, tattoos, hair length and other matters of the law. We believe we must strive for holiness and to pursue holiness, “Be Holy For I am Holy”. We are required to live a separated life.

Some may even think this is unique to Pentecostalism. It is not! It is rooted in the Reformed Faith since the beginning of the First Reformation and way before the modern Pentecostal movement begin.

Practical or outward holiness for believers do involve certain ‘holiness standards’ that dictate, among other things as modest apparel and gender distinction. We Covenanters believe wholeheartedly in dressing modesty (not by cultural standards or norms) with restraints and limits as well as moderation which requires avoiding excesses..

Covenanter Rev. Prof. R.J George, D.D. wrote in 1898,

“In our Church Covenant the requirements of the separated life are set forth in a most solemn vow of surrender of the life to God and consecration to holy living. Aiming to live for the glory of God as our chief end we will in reliance upon God’s grace and feeling our inability to perform any spiritual duty in our own strength diligently attend to searching the Scriptures religious conversation the duties of the closet the household the fellowship meetings and the sanctuary and seek in them to worship God in spirit and in truth. We do solemnly promise to depart from iniquity and to live soberly righteously and in this present world commending and encouraging by our example temperance charity and godliness.

All through her history the Church of the Covenanters has given expression to her doctrine of separated life by certain beautiful and forms in connection with the observance of Lord’s Supper which are in a good degree peculiar to herself. The first is on the Saturday the Sacrament is observed there is an official exhibition of the terms of her ecclesiastical fellowship and an authoritative distribution of tokens of admission to the Lord’s table by the Session constituted in the name of Christ. The other immediately preceded the of communicants to the holy table of the Lord was called by our fathers ‘Fencing the tables’.

The doctrine underlying these Covenanter is the doctrine of the separated life as expressed.

The Scripture,

“A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.”

“Open ye the gates that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.”

“Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit, thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.”

The charge has often been made by the enemies of the martyrs of the Covenant that their devotion was simply to the externals of religion, while they lacked the real separated life which consists in consecration to holy living and complete surrender to the will of God. Those who make this charge either have little acquaintance with the lives of these godly men and women, whom they thus reproach, or they have little regard for truth.

From a great cloud of witnesses I can only give the testimony of two of the most noted, namely Donald Cargill, The author of the Queensferry Paper and of the Torwood Excommunication; and James Renwick, the organizer of the Society People and the last of Scotland’s martyrs.

In his dying testimony Cargill said: I have followed holiness; I have taught truth; and I have been most in the main things; not that I thought the things concerning our times little, but that I thought none could do anything to purpose in God’s great and public matters till they were right in their own conditions.

What a testimony to the need of holiness in order to service. The words might well be inscribed over the doors of a theological seminary– “No one can do anything to purpose in God’s great and public matters till they are right in their own conditions.”

Renwick bore testimony to the excellence of holy living. And after speaking of the trials through which the persecuted remnant had passed, and the still greater trials awaiting them, he adds: “What is for us this day, but that we make Christ sure for ourselves, and spend our days here below in admiring the loveliness and condescension of our Beloved, and our happiness in enjoying such a portion. But this is a great work. Time is not equal for it, therefore we shall get eternity for it. O let us study the increase of the beauty of holiness, for happiness is inferior unto it. It is by holiness we are made like unto God; and is not this true nobility? O what is like unto it! If we knew more of this study and attainment desertion would be less of our exercise, and we should enjoy more of the smilings of His sweet countenance and the breathings of His spirit.”

Now listen to Renwick’s appeal for a life wholly consecrated to God:

“Oh, who would not choose Him?” he says, “Who would not give away themselves to Him” Let man look through heaven and earth, and seek a portion where he will, he will not find the like of Christ. O, then, let us be altogether His and nothing our own. Our time, let it be His; our understanding let it be His; our will let it be His; our affections, let them be His; the travail of our souls, let it be His; our strength, let it be His; our names, our lives and enjoyments, let them all be His. Let us be fully surrendered and entirely consecrated unto Him.”

Again, I say the words might well be inscribed over the doors of a theological seminary. And what can be more sublime than his message from Holland to the Societies:

“My longings and earnest desires to be in that land and with the pleasant remnant are very great. I cannot tell what may be in it, but I hope that either the Lord has some great work to work, or else is minded to call for a testimony at my hand. If He give me frame and furniture I desire to be ready for either.”

Noble words! Work or martyrdom! They recall that ancient seal which had for its symbol an ox standing between a pIow and an altar, and underneath the legend– Ready for EITHER. If the modern doctrine of a ‘separated life’ comprehends anything beyond that in the way of full consecration and entire surrender of the life to God, I know not what it is.

While, for the purpose of exhibiting the scope of the dominant principles of our Church, I have presented the subject under three heads, yet true it is, that they all may be comprehended under one, for the second and third, are correlates of the first, and the one grand imperial principle the Church of the Covenanters, from which she had her birth, which reappears at every crisis in her history, and which moulds and controls her government, worship, discipline and service, is the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Rev. J. M’C Cromie, in his address before the Glasgow Convention in 1896, on Reformed Presbyterian Literature, said:

“The monuments and literature of ancient Egypt teach us that the men who produced them were under the dominion of one idea; they believed the one real business of life was preparation for death.

Upon the whole literature of the Covenanters is graven, with a pen of iron, one idea: the Supreme Headship of Lord Jesus Christ in all matters sacred and civil. In fact, the whole literature of the Covenants is simply the expansion of one idea– ‘The World for Christ’”

-Covenanter Rev. Prof. R.J George, D.D. in Christian Nation: Righteousness Exalts a Nation, 1898, Vol. 29

So Be Holy and live a separated life.


holiness 3



Long tailed boat


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