... for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?—Canticles 1.7.
Solemn League and Covenant.
Revised in 2018 and Proposed as a Means of
Uniting All Sincere Covenanters,
And properly formulating Vows
Of R.P. Church Membership.
Isaiah 45.23: I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.
In the 1800s, a variety of Covenants and Covenant-Renovations were proposed in the Reformed Presbyterian churches, and specifically in the RP Church in North America. One notable example has been provided before, was a Draft of a Covenant published in 1848, which was never adopted for the church’s use. Various factors contributed to the American church’s failure to adopt a suitable Covenant before the defective deed of 1871 served to remodel the RPCNA’s ecclesiastical constitution and displace the original Reformation Covenants from her ecclesiastical standards.
In our day the questions which arise about how Covenanting should be implemented in the Covenanter church, or what the Covenanters, or Presbyterians, of one nation should expect from faithful Presbyterians in another nation, are not more easily resolved. Generations of believers have drifted not only from faithfulness, but also from awareness. Yet the Lord says he will hold our churches accountable, and our ignorance cannot save us: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee. Hos. 4.6. It is imperative that we search out the attainments which describe that path of the Holy walk and Scriptural religion that our Lord still expects us to walk by and to mind. Phil. 3.16.
Further, the questions above involve some difficulty, because many individuals have been moved to join themselves to the Presbyterian and Reformed Presbyterian churches who have come from a variety of backgrounds, neither formally bound by our Reformation Covenants or other church constitutions, nor informed of such obligations in the engagements they took on as they joined these churches. And beyond this, our hope and desire is that not only small accessions should continue, but that this Covenanting or Swearing-unto-the-Lord might be called for, and complied with, by all individuals of our communities, and all communities throughout the earth.
The present editor, in assessing the history of the Covenanter churches over many years, and considering what policies and actions contributed to their decline in faithfulness and order, and what alternative conduct would have contributed to more stable and healthy churches, has been led to one primary conclusion among others. The primary conclusion concerns the Covenants themselves: that it would have been most for the welfare of these churches to keep the Reformation Covenants and the practice of Covenanting, in the place they had at the Time of Reformation, as the original Term of Communion or engagement of membership. The alternative paths, even while affirming the obligation of the original covenants, have been detrimental, and never served long to perpetuate the principles or religion of those Covenants. Terms of Communion, used more or less as a Shibboleth, and then Vows of Membership, eventually an occasion for swearing with mental reservations, (something offensive to the Lord,) have done little good as replacements for the practice of our Reformers.
The following Covenant is therefore proposed, to be considered by all sincere and serious Covenanters, taking into account these three concerns which largely complicate those questions mentioned above: (1.) Covenanters of America or other nations less connected with our British origins should not swear a Covenant worded as if we were citizens of kingdoms where we do not reside, and therefore our Covenant should be either “American” or generalized (which is here preferred); and (2.) Members of Presbyterian churches, no longer organized as congregations of the nation of Scotland, should not swear to national obligations or appeal to the laws of one nation to justify actions in other nations, and therefore our Covenant should be particularly faithful to both principle and practice expressed in this Covenant, yet without employing its particular language; and (3.) It is most suitable that a church’s covenant obligations would be expressed by a single Covenant, rather than multiple deeds, and therefore the distinct principles and practices of the National Covenant of Scotland, (1638), not definitively represented in the Solemn League and Covenant, (1643), should be extracted and carefully incorporated into the Solemn League and Covenant, as it is generalized out of its distinctly British context. In this last regard, one chief goal would be to incorporate the National Covenant’s renunciation of the Five Articles of Perth, under the names of the superstitious practices themselves. This is done below, in the conclusion.
If any should be offended, as if the following constituted only another effort to displace our original Reformation Covenants, like the deed of 1871, we appeal merely to facts: (1.) We have here a distinct Covenant incorporating the duties and obligations of our blessed Reformation covenants, so far as these are obliging upon the generality of people who are to be called to join with us in swearing unto the Lord; (2.) There are no churches where our Reformation covenants are in use as actual Covenants, where they could be subject to displacement by this Covenant; (3.) In Scotland, in England, in Presbyterian churches of Scottish origin, the Reformation Covenants may be used in a complete harmony with the introduction of this Covenant in other churches, where it will exemplify nothing contrary to the intention of our original Solemn League; because, (4.) The conclusion of the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643 ends with the proposing of this exact effort, for the moral general uniting of the Lord’s people throughout the enlarged Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
And so, the following is commended to my Christian brethren for their consideration, and to the Lord Jesus, as what he may use to restore what we and our fathers have formerly marred and broken.
The Solemn League and Covenant.
2018 ~ Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church.
WE, Christian Brethren of various gifts, callings, and offices throughout the lands into which the Lord has brought us in his providence, being severally drawn by his grace to adhere to the Reformed Faith and Religion, and having before our eyes the glory of GOD, and the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST, the true public liberty, safety, and peace of society, wherein every one’s private condition is included, and also the success, honour, and happiness of such as will rule and serve in subordination to our common Lord, the King of kings: And calling to mind the historic conspiracies and practices, and the present malice, of the enemies of GOD, against the true religion and professors thereof in all places, especially in these western nations most remarkably blessed by the enduring light of the Protestant Reformation, ever since its beginning; and how much their rage, power, and presumption, are even at this present time, increased and exercised; And calling to mind how the Christian Church of our time is shattered by the workings of Schism and Sectarianism, and carried away into so many and so various courses of defection by false teachers and time-serving hirelings, whereof the deplorable condition of both church and state throughout Scotland, England, Ireland, America, and other nations of our Saviour’s rightful dominions, are present and public testimonies; we have now at last, (after observing how all access for remedy by more ordinary means has been obstructed,) for the preservation of ourselves and our religion from utter ruin and destruction, according to the commendable practice and example of GOD’s people in former times throughout many lands, after mature deliberation, resolved and determined to enter into a mutual and solemn League and Covenant, wherein we all subscribe, and each one of us for himself, with our hands lifted up to the most High GOD, do swear,
THAT we shall sincerely, really, and constantly, through the grace of GOD, endeavour, in our several places and callings, the preservation of the Reformed Religion, formerly established in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, against our common enemies, the unruly course of this world, and the backsliding of many brethren; still pursuing the reformation of religion in these nations and churches, (those named above, and especially our own,) in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the word of God, and former scriptural examples; and shall endeavour to bring all of the Church of Jesus Christ to the nearest possible conjunction and uniformity in religion, confession of faith, form of church-government, directory for worship and catechising; that as the Lord graciously afforded his Church with all these benefits by the year 1649, after the prayers and vows of our progenitors, so now we and our posterity continuing in the enjoyment of them, may, as brethren, live in faith and love, and the Lord may delight to dwell in the midst of us.
That we shall in like manner, without respect of persons, endeavor the extirpation of Popery, Prelacy, (that is, church-government by Archbishops, Bishops, and all such unscriptural offices of episcopal churches,) superstition, heresy, schism, profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found to be contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness, lest we partake in other men’s sins, and thereby be in danger to receive of their plagues; and that the Lord may be one, and his name one, throughout the kingdom of his Son Jesus Christ.
And whereas we observe in Holy Scripture, that the interest of true religion, and the stability of virtuous and lawful government, do often stand or fall together, as a people are either thankful for the Lord’s blessings, or rebellious against Him, so we shall, with the same sincerity, reality, and constancy, in our several vocations, endeavor, with our estates and lives, mutually to preserve the rights and privileges of all Christian and Reformed civil institutions, and the just liberties of civil society; and to preserve and defend every lawful and righteous ruler appointed for us, in his person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion, and liberties of civil society, having our hearts and endeavours constantly directed toward the subordinating of all government to the law and order of Holy Scripture as our chief rule, and the commitment of rulers to this Word of God as their chief qualification; that the world may bear witness with our consciences of our loyalty, order, and peaceableness, and that as we desire to be ruled by law and written constitutions, (which the Lord’s people enjoyed even in the time of Moses,) so we have no other thoughts or intentions to diminish the power and greatness of civil government itself, or those lawfully exercising its functions and offices.
We shall also, with all faithfulness, endeavor the discovery of all such as have been or shall be workers of sedition, malignant enemies to true religion, or evil instruments, by hindering the reformation of religion, dividing those who exercise rule and authority from the people under their care, or dividing the Lord’s people of one nation or society from those of another. So shall we also endeavor the discovery of such as make factions or parties among the people, contrary to this League and Covenant. And all this we will do that such offenders may, in a righteous and orderly manner, be brought to public trial, and receive due punishment, as the degree of their offences shall require or deserve, or the supreme judicatories of civil society, or those having power from them for that effect, shall judge convenient.
And whereas the good providence of God not only granted our progenitors the orderly and Christian constitution of particular kingdoms and nations in former times, but also the constitutional establishment of peaceful relations between these respective nations, formerly unattainable, which are now again overturned and redefined in opposition to the gracious God of providence and Governor among the nations, (as is especially the case respecting Scotland, England, and Ireland); therefore, we shall each one of us, according to our place and interest, endeavour that the nations of the British Isles may be restored to their former Christian and Reformed peace and union to all posterity, and that every nation and community in which we make our earthly pilgrimage may also be brought to like peace and concord, founded upon Holy Scripture. And so also, we shall, according to our place and interest, endeavor that justice may be done upon the willful opposers of this holy concord, in manner expressed in the preceding article.
We shall also, according to our places and callings, in this common cause of religion, liberty, and the peace of civil society, assist and defend all those that enter into this League and Covenant, in the maintaining and pursuing thereof; and shall not suffer ourselves, directly or indirectly, by whatsoever combination, persuasion, or terror, to be divided and withdrawn from this blessed union and conjunction, whether to make defection to the contrary part, or to give ourselves to a detestable indifferency or neutrality in this cause which so much concerneth the glory of GOD, the good of every community, and honour of every righteous ruler; but shall, all the days of our lives, zealously and constantly continue therein against all opposition, and promote the same, according to our power, against all hindrances and impediments whatsoever; and, what we are not able ourselves to suppress or overcome, we shall reveal and make known, that it may be timely prevented or removed: All which we shall do as in the sight of God.
And, because these churches and nations, previously reformed, are guilty of many sins and provocations against GOD, and his Son JESUS CHRIST, as is too manifest by our present distresses and dangers, and especially by our blindness, hardness, and barbarity, the several fruits thereof; we profess and declare, before GOD and the world, our unfeigned desire to be humbled for our own sins, and for the sins of these nations: especially, that we have not at all valued, but proudly rejected the inestimable benefit of the gospel; that we have not laboured for the purity, power, and preservation thereof; and that we have not endeavoured to receive CHRIST in our hearts, nor to walk worthy of him in our lives; which are the causes of other sins and transgressions so much abounding amongst us: declaring also our earnest promise and unfeigned purpose, desire, and endeavour for ourselves, and all others under our power and charge, both in publick and in private, in all duties we owe to GOD and man, to amend our lives, and each one to go before another in the example of a real reformation; that the Lord may turn away his wrath and heavy indignation, and establish these churches and nations in truth and peace.
And whereas it has now become a common schismatic practice for members of churches to swear their vows or declare their adherence to their confession of faith with various exceptions and mental reservations, therefore we declare that we receive and affirm our Confession of Faith in all points as it was received by the Church of Scotland in 1647, and as it was understood and explained by a remnant of true Presbyterians in 1685 who, in agreement with the Confession, distinguished just and legal authority from that which is not so. Furthermore, whereas the covenant obligations of former generations of Presbyterians have become obscure to most at present, in relation to several superstitious practices once disowned and abandoned, we therefore resolve to keep our holy Lord’s religion and worship pure and entire, renouncing explicitly, as innovations having no warrant from the word of God, Private Baptism, Private Communion, Episcopal Confirmation of Children, Observance of Holy Days such as Christmass and Easter, Kneeling at the Lord’s Supper, Episcopal Government itself, and all Erastianism, whereby the distinction between Church and State is obscured, or the authority of the Church is made subject to that of the State. Also, whereas these necessary steps of reformation have not been remembered either as Scripture Duty or as Covenant Obligations, but instead buried and forgotten; therefore we profess and declare to the present generation and those yet to come, that all covenants with our Lord, personal and corporate, are vows which must be paid, according to the Holy Scriptures; and it is not only present swearers, but successors and ensuing generations represented by us in this covenant, who are bound by the mercy and grace of God to keep inviolable this oath and its obligations, even as particular nations and churches to this very day remain obliged to honour and fulfill the Reformation Covenants sworn by their predecessors, notwithstanding their vain imaginations and long practice to the contrary. So we subscribe, according to these explicit affirmations and clarifications, in the interest of that unity and purity which the Lord Jesus has appointed for his Holy Catholick Church.
And this Covenant we make in the presence of ALMIGHTY GOD, the Searcher of all hearts, with a true intention to perform the same, as we shall answer at that great day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed; most humbly beseeching the LORD to strengthen us by his HOLY SPIRIT for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings with such success, that religion and righteousness may flourish in the land, to the glory of God, which will be deliverance and safety to his people, and encouragement to other Christian churches, groaning under, or in danger of, the yoke of antichristian tyranny, to join in the same or like association and covenant, to the glory of GOD, the enlargement of the kingdom of JESUS CHRIST, and the peace and tranquility of Christian kingdoms and commonwealths.
[ The text of the revised Solemn League and Covenant above was prepared by Jeremy T. Kerr in a careful process of several phases from the year 2014 to 2018. The first step involved general revisions to the Solemn League in 2014, paragraph by paragraph, to ensure the language was not limited to 17th century Britain. In the next phase, notes were taken on the main points, characteristics, and expressions of the National Covenant of Scotland, looking for items of importance not effectively expressed in the SL&C which might be incorporated into its revision. In the next phase, the revised SL&C was re-read, additional occasions for revision noted, and an appendix paragraph composed to express (1) a proper adherence to the WCF, and (2) a particularized renunciation of everything renounced in the 1638 revision of the National Covenant, including the five articles of Perth. In a fourth phase, all notes taken on the National Covenant were cross-referenced with the SL&C to identify which main points, etc. might be worked into the revised SL&C. In another phase the various items of importance from the National Covenant, not expressed in the SL&C were worked into the text. Additional revisions were made to article 5. A Comparative Text is available, as well as scanned notes from the later phases of revision.—JTKer. ]
1. The reviser’s original intention with this term was to replace it with an expression more easily understood, and perhaps less likely to occasion unnecessary stumbling. The Westminster Assembly in its “Exhortation” found themselves compelled to answer objections against the language, and the use of the term in a Draft of a Covenant in 1848 likely factored into one minister’s published objections against the Draft as using “very strong language of authority.” Some expressions contemplated by the present reviser as replacements included “overthrow and elimination,” “abolishing and thorough elimination,” and “thorough abolishing and disposing.” After requesting the input of four other individuals variously acquainted with Covenanter history and dedicated to the principles of the Covenanter church, it was determined that the original wording should be retained. Revision is still an option, but for the present we relay that a “mother in Israel,” observing that any suitable expression would be capable of being misconstrued by the enemy as implying violent intentions, remarks that Christians must recognize the fact “that we are at war.”