Misrepresentation #3: The Puritan Reformed Church maintains that a church cannot be truly and biblically constituted without formally swearing and adopting the Solemn League and Covenant.
First, Mr. Bacon asserts that the PRCE maintains that taking Solemn League and Covenant is necessary to exist as a truly constituted church.
Essentially the difference between the Reformation Presbyterian Church and PRCE is that the Reformation Presbyterian Church maintains that a church can be truly and biblically constituted without swearing the Solemn League and Covenant and the PRCE claims that a church is not a properly, truly, biblically constituted church if it has not formally adopted the Solemn League and Covenant (Defense Departed).
The issue is strictly whether the Solemn League and Covenant is a necessary document in order for a church to be a properly, truly, biblically constituted church (Defense Departed).
Second, Mr. Bacon argues that the Solemn League and Covenant is used by the "Steelites" in principally the same way as Rome uses its doctrine of Tradition.
Neither is this a minor distinction. The Reformed and Presbyterian churches maintain that the church is built on the apostles and prophets, Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The Romanist church maintains that the church is built upon Scripture plus the traditions of the church. Without the tradition there is no true constitution. While the content of the traditions differ between the Roman Catholic Church and the Steelites, the principle is the same: without the "right" tradition, no constitutional church can exist. This distinction is essential to the very definition of Protestantism. Epistemologically speaking, sola scriptura is prior even to sola fide or solo Christo (Defense Departed).
Third, Mr. Bacon denies that the Solemn League and Covenant binds him to historical or accidental aspects of the document, but admits it does bind him to moral duties only so far as they directly apply to God's law.
So, then, we account the Solemn League and Covenant an edifying historical document which contains in it several moral duties. But we deny that the existence of moral duties within a document binds subsequent generations of the church to the historical and accidental aspects of the document. As Calvin said, these things should be "accommodated to the varying circumstances of each age and nation." It should further be noted that whatever in a document is a moral duty is a moral duty so far and only so far as it is a direct application of God's moral law (Defense Departed).
I will deal with the two false accusations first, and then proceed to discuss Mr. Bacon's erring comments regarding the binding nature of the Solemn League and Covenant.
Does the Puritan Reformed Church maintain that swearing and adopting the Solemn League and Covenant is necessary to the definition of a truly constituted church (essence)?
In the previous section I demonstrated that the PRCE maintains that, strictly speaking, the only mark necessary to the being or essence of a true visible Church is a visible profession of the truth and doctrine of godliness. For this reason, the PRCE has always believed the First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett to be a true church (as to its being). The reason I have devoted so much time to these ecclesiological distinctions is that the huge majority of Mr. Bacon's unqualified libel is based upon his misunderstanding of this one concept. His charge that we maintain that it is necessary to swear the Solemn League and Covenant to be a truly constituted church, while failing to qualify what he means by the word church is a perfect example of his inability to apply this necessary distinction.
The Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton (PRCE) unequivocally states that it is NOT necessary to swear the Solemn League and Covenant to be a truly constituted church (as to essence).
First, Mr. Bacon's inability to distinguish the being from the wellbeing of the church has again led him to make a seriously flawed and unqualified accusation about the PRCE. In this respect, I judge Mr. Bacon's conduct to be a violation of the ninth commandment. His sin is aggravated by the fact that he has publicly sinned while holding the office of a minister of Christ. His testimony against us has led his followers to fight against that which is agreeable to God's word and intended for their edification. Those who believe what he is saying should carefully consider to whom they turn for counsel, lest his bad manners and churlish libel become for them an example to follow.
The true state of the question.
This leads us to consider the next topic which stands in need of clarification. Mr. Bacon, either by ignorance or design, has directed all the attention to the wrong question. He wishes to make the PRCE say that it is necessary to take the Covenants in order to be a Christian church (esse). A more informed opponent would understand that the question truly revolves around whether or not it's necessary to the wellbeing of a Christian church to keep the promises representatively made by their forefathers. Taking the Covenants are not an absolute necessity to the essential constitution of the church and we have never, in any of our writing or preaching, said they were. Instead, we have maintained that, in a covenanted land where lawful promises have already been made, they are necessary to keep for the wellbeing of our constitution and for the integrity of our witness for Christ. Lawful promises must necessarily be kept, and covenants once made, are necessary to own, adopt and renew, lest we open ourselves to the charge of taking the Lord's name in vain.
When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee (Deuteronomy 23:21, AV).
Therefore, dear reader, I ask you not to let Mr. Bacon's vague notions cloud the question. The question is about the wellbeing of the church and not its being; about whether a church is being faithful to Covenant promises already made and not about whether a church is Christian or Pagan. Practically we must determine whether we ought to approve of, and associate with, churches who are unfaithfully violating binding covenant obligations, and whether or not we are duty bound to conscionably withdraw from them as covenant breakers. The importance of this question must not be underestimated. Those who approve of, and associate with, obstinate covenant breakers are accomplice to their crimes while those who testify against them remain free of their sinful influence and just punishment.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Deuteronomy 5:11, AV).
The Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton (PRCE) maintains that, in a land already bound by the Covenants, it is necessary to own and renew the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant to be a truly constituted church as to wellbeing, viz., a faithful church.
The PRCE has never said that the Covenants are necessary to the existence of a church, but rather that the Covenants are necessary to the wellbeing of a church (assuming, of course, that the church in question has descended from the original covenanting churches of England, Ireland, and Scotland). Our forefathers made covenant promises on our behalf and we cannot preserve or maintain a faithful testimony while ignoring their formal and material obligations. For a nation, church or individual to ignore the obligations formally laid upon them by their ancestors would be to open themselves to the legitimate charges of covenant breaking and perjury, both of which are fundamentally destructive to the wellbeing of the Church of Christ and to the perfecting of the saints. This would be to willingly and purposely subvert the intended purpose of the ordinance of covenanting as stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (25:3),
Unto this catholic and visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto.
Since the appearance of Brian Schwertley's slanderous, "Open Letter" (April, 1997), and especially since Mr. Bacon's Defense Departed appeared on the FPCR web site (August, 1997), young and inexperienced (and some who should have known better) believers have come to the sad conclusion that that PRCE does not think that anybody is a Christian church unless they take the Covenants. We have received calls and letters from some brethren indicating that Mr. Bacon's scandalous misrepresentations have sinfully affected some dear people, and we cannot adequately express how grieved we are by this turn of events. The misrepresentations expressed in Mr. Bacon's Defense Departed are among the most ignorant and dishonest I have encountered from a man of his supposed calibre of scholarship. How he can have a clear conscience regarding what he has written is beyond my comprehension! I do pray that God will grant him repentance in this matter. Again, for the sake of those who believed Mr. Bacon's report, I repeat that the PRCE unequivocally states that it is NOT NOT NOT necessary to swear the Covenants to be a truly constituted church (as to essence). If those who oppose us cannot believe our explicit statements then I fear our arguments will have little effect upon such a calloused prejudice.
Mr. Bacon ignorantly compares us to keepers of Roman Catholic tradition.
Immediately after Mr. Bacon utters his unqualified charges he compares us with the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that all who do not accept her traditions are to be considered nonchristian churches. While he represents the position of the Roman Catholic Church correctly he proceeds to violently twist our meaning into something far different from what we have ever taught.
The Catholic Church in her most recent official Catechism says:
The sole Church of Christ is that which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it.... The Church constituted and organised as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by bishops in communion with him (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 234, Lumen gentium 8, par. 2, emphases added).
The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism states:
For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was also to the Apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 234, Unitatis redintegratio 3, par. 5, emphases added).
Again, I remind the reader of Mr. Bacon's charge:
Neither is this a minor distinction. The Reformed and Presbyterian churches maintain that the church is built on the apostles and prophets, Christ himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The Romanist church maintains that the church is built upon Scripture plus the traditions of the church. Without the tradition there is no true constitution. While the content of the traditions differ between the Roman Catholic Church and the Steelites, the principle is the same: without the "right" tradition, no constitutional church can exist. This distinction is essential to the very definition of Protestantism. Epistemologically speaking, sola scriptura is prior even to sola fide or solo Christo (Defense Departed).
It is true that the Church of Rome puts Tradition and Scripture on the same level of authority as the following citation demonstrates.
Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of of the Holy Spirit. And Holy tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the Apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound, and spread it abroad by preaching. As a result the Church to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 31, Dei Verbum 9, emphases added).
Does the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton (PRCE) equate the Covenants with Scripture, as Mr. Bacon misrepresents?
The PRCE's first term of communion requires, "An acknowledgement of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and the alone infallible rule of faith and practice."
Our fourth term of communion states:
That public, social covenanting is an ordinance of God, obligatory on churches and nations under the New Testament; that the National Covenant and the Solemn League are an exemplification of this divine institution; and that these Deeds are of continued obligation upon the moral person; and in consistency with this, that the Renovation of these Covenants at Auchensaugh, Scotland, 1712 was agreeable to the Word of God.
Notice that our Covenants are said to be agreeable to God's Word and not equal to God's Word. The Word of God is our "alone infallible rule of faith and practice," while the Covenants are said to be subordinately "agreeable to God's word." The Papists say that Scripture and Tradition are to be equally reverenced while we say that all our standards are subordinated to the Word of God. How can Mr. Bacon fail to notice the difference? That which is humanly composed though agreeable to God's Word is subordinate to God's Word and not equal to it. Consequently, it is impossible and dishonest to misrepresent the position of the PRCE as making the Covenants equal with Scripture in the same sense as Rome equates Scripture and Papal Tradition. I do not understand how Mr. Bacon can miss something so patently obvious. Since I do not believe that Mr. Bacon is feebleminded, I conclude that he intended something more sinister by making this comparison.
Mr. Bacon unwittingly becomes an Arminian spokesman.
To demonstrate how far off the mark Mr. Bacon actually is, I now must refer to an email discussion held between Pastor Price and Mr. Bacon on December 18, 1996. In this correspondence Mr. Bacon objects to Pastor Price's position by writing, "You have made the Solemn League and Covenant the rule of faith and practice. By referring to the nonnecessity of taking a particular covenant as a sin, you have made it the (or at least "a") rule of faith and practice." It is here that Mr. Bacon displays his significant ignorance on this subject. Samuel Rutherford heard this exact objection from the Arminians of his day and I ask the reader to observe how closely Mr. Bacon's objection matches that of the Arminians.
Mr. Bacon states, "You have made the Solemn League and Covenant the rule of faith and practice... or at least "a" rule of faith and practice."
Samuel Rutherford replies:
Arminians [argue GB] A confession [Covenant GB] is not a rule of faith it hath not the lowest place in the Church.
The Covenant written and sealed in Nehemiah's time was a secondary rule of faith [in the same sense as the PRCE's fourth term of communion GB], and a rule in so far as it agreed with the Law of Moses, for they enter in a curse and an oath to walk in God's law, not to give their sons and daughters in marriage to the heathen, not to buy victuals from the heathen on the Sabbath, to charge themselves to give money to maintain the service of God.(Nehemiah 9:38, 10:13, 2932). Which written Covenant was not Scripture; and Acts 15, the decrees of the Synod was not formally Scripture, yet to be observed as a secondary rule (Samuel Rutherford, A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience, 1649, SWRB bound photocopy reprint, 1996, p. 25).
According to Rutherford, Nehemiah's Covenant was necessary to be taken, as was the directive of the Assembly of Elders and Apostles in Acts 15. The necessity of obeying these human constitutions was based on the fact that they were agreeable to Scripture. Though both were subordinate to God's Word, I observe that Rutherford rightly concludes that they form a secondary rule of faith and thus they become necessarily obliging upon all for whom they were intended.
Consider the necessity of the covenant laid upon the tribes of of Israel in the fifteenth year of Asa, where "whosoever should not seek the Lord God Of Israel should be put to death."
And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and put away the abominable idols out of all the land of Judah and Benjamin, and out of the cities which he had taken from mount Ephraim, and renewed the altar of the LORD, that was before the porch of the LORD. And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon: for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the LORD his God was with him. So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep. And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. And they sware unto the LORD with a loud voice, and with shouting, and with trumpets, and with cornets. And all Judah rejoiced at the oath: for they had sworn with all their heart, and sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the LORD gave them rest round about (2 Chronicles 15: 815, AV, emphases added).
Would Mr. Bacon also upbraid Asa saying, "You have made the Covenant of Israel a rule of faith and practice. By referring to the nonnecessity of taking a particular covenant as a sin, you have made it the (or at least "a") rule of faith and practice." This exemplifies the absurdity of Mr. Bacon's Arminian objection. Furthermore, doesn't Mr. Bacon consider the Westminster Confession of Faith to be a fallible, subordinate, secondary rule of faith which is agreeable to God's word? Are not the ministers and elders of the Reformation Presbyterian Church bound to uphold it in so far as it agrees with the Word of God? Would they allow someone who obstinately and wilfully teaches against it to come to the Lord's Table? Why then does he object to the Covenants being used as subordinate standard in the same way?
On December 18, 1996, Mr. Bacon writes (email) to Pastor Price regarding the necessity of covenants:
Necessity implies some rule other than Scripture which binds the conscience. If you wish to take the Solemn League and Covenant (which I assume you have done), no bother to me. However, the term "necessity" implies precisely the position that y'all have now taken which I believe to be directly contrary to the doctrine of sola Scriptura.
No, Mr. Bacon, necessity doesn't imply some rule other than Scripture which binds the conscience. Fallible human constitutions such as Confessions, Covenants and faithful acts of church courts all bind the conscience, if and when they agree with the Word of God. A good and necessary deduction from Scripture binds just as much as Scripture itself.
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:6).
The necessity of covenant keeping is based upon a good and necessary deduction taken from the third commandment. We must necessarily own and renew the Covenants because we are commanded to keep the vows made on our behalf by our faithful covenanted forefathers.
They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers (Jeremiah 11:10, AV).
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay (Ecclesiastes 5:4,5, AV).
Necessity in the case of covenant keeping originates from Scripture alone and for this reason we say that it is necessary to renew and keep the Covenants. These Covenants were lawfully sworn, and we are therefore now obligated to pay what we owe. Is Mr. Bacon saying that good and necessary consequences deduced (inerrantly but fallibly) from Scripture do not necessarily bind? What kind of Protestant doctrine is this? Does Mr. Bacon truly believe that good and necessary deductions which bind are contrary to sola Scriptura? Even the doctrine of sola Scriptura is an historical deduction. Does that bind? Of course it does, and I am amazed that Mr. Bacon would attempt to argue in such a childish fashion.
If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth (Numbers 30:2, AV).
Samuel Rutherford refutes Mr. Bacon's Arminian notions as follows:
1. Only the Word of God is the principal and formal ground of our faith. Eph. 2:2022;
2 Tim. 3:16; Lk. 24:25.
2. A confession of faith containing all fundamental points is so far forth the Word of God as it agrees with the Word of God and obligeth as a rule secondary, which we believe with subjection to God, speaking in His own word, and to this platform we may lawfully swear (Samuel Rutherford, The Due Right of Presbyteries, 1644, p. 132, SWRB bound photocopy, emphases added).
Why then does Mr. Bacon object that we make the Covenants, "at least 'a' rule of faith and practice"? The reason Mr. Bacon is arguing like an Arminian is that he does not properly distinguish between the alone infallible rule of faith, and secondary rules of faith and practice. He does not seem to recognize that fallible standards bind our conscience as secondary rules of faith when they are agreeable to God's Word. It is not the subordinate standard that ultimately binds the conscience but rather the supreme standard of holy Scripture speaking in the subordinate standard that binds the conscience.
Pastor David Steele comments:
In short, while, on the ground and in the language of our reforming ancestors, we hold that our Covenants are a norma recta a right rule, with which other symbols of our profession should harmonize; we also hold that the Scriptures are norma recti, the rule of right, TO REGULATE ALL (The Reformation Advocate, 1874, Still Waters Revival Books reprint, 1997, Vol. 1:1, pp. 6, 7, emphases added).
Pastor Steele's faithful explanation places him in good company. Compare his explanation of our subordinate Covenants with that of the noted Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly, George Gillespie.
It is in vain for them to palliate or shelter their covenant-breaking with appealing from the covenant to the Scripture, for subordianta non pugnant. The covenant is norma recta, a right rule, though the Scripture alone be norma recti,the rule of right. If they hold the covenant to be unlawful, or to have anything in it contrary to the word of God, let them speak out. But to profess the breach of the covenant to be a grievous and great fault, and worthy of a severe censure, and yet to decline the charge and proofs thereof, is a most horrible scandal; yea, be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and give ear, O earth! how small regard is had to the oath of God by men professing the name of God (George Gillespie, The Works of George Gillespie, Male Audis, 1646, reprinted in 1991 [SWRB] from the 1846 edition, Vol. 1, Chapter 3, p. 13).
Furthermore, Gillespie notes that those who argue like Mr. Bacon place themselves in very bad company.
[This is GB] a tenet looked upon by the reformed churches as proper to those that are inspired with the ghost of Arminius; for the remonstrants, both at and after the Synod of Dort, did cry down the obligation of all national covenants and oaths, &c., in matters of religion, under the color of taking the Scripture only for a rule. Well, we see the charge declined as nothing (George Gillespie, The Works of George Gillespie, Male Audis, 1646, reprinted in 1991 [SWRB] from the 1846 edition, Vol. 1, Chapter 3, p.13, emphases added).
There is no reasonable explanation for Mr. Bacon's objection other than the fact that he has not adequately understood these fundamental truths. I'm sure the Arminian churches worldwide would approvingly endorse his objection, and in this regard he has unwittingly become their spokesman. I encourage the reader to obtain a copy of Samuel Rutherford's Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience and carefully examine whether or not Mr. Bacon has entirely imitated the Arminians in this regard. Let the reader observe how little Mr. Bacon truly understands about the necessity of covenanting and how ready he is to rail at those who, by the grace of God, have been given this knowledge. Mr. Bacon's reasoning, if applied consistently, would result in railing against both Rutherford and Nehemiah as well. The PRCE does not equate the Covenants with Scripture any more than Nehemiah or Rutherford. The Covenants bind because they were lawfully sworn and agreeable to God's Word. Accordingly, these Covenants are fallible, subordinate, secondary rules of faith, and inasmuch as they are agreeable to God's Word they cannot be broken without sin.
Again, I repeat that our first term of communion requires, "An acknowledgement of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and the alone infallible rule of faith and practice." Does Mr. Bacon ever once acknowledge this in his Defense Departed? Does he ever acknowledge that we state that the Covenants are agreeable to God's Word? What shall we say about a man who appears to be given over to the sin of so grossly misrepresenting the beliefs of others? How can Mr. Bacon honestly expect others to believe him in the pulpit when he's behaving this way? We explicitly state that the Word of God is our alone infallible rule of faith and practice, and yet Mr. Bacon expects to convince others that we have equated the Covenants with the Word of God. Dear reader, what does "alone infallible rule of practice" mean to you? Mr. Bacon's objection is so absurd that I can hardly believe it has become necessary to answer it . What more could we say to convince Mr. Bacon that the Word of God is our alone infallible rule of faith and practice except to repeat our first term of communion? It is both sad and sinful that he cannot personally accept our plain words and expression of faith, but for him to aggravate his sin by brazenly deceiving others about what we believe is a high form of mischief. He should be ashamed of himself. His attitude should be one of profound embarrassment for so completely misstating our beliefs, and we await a humble apology and true repentance for his scandalously perpetrating this public spectacle. It is one thing to disagree and debate over different theological positions but we cannot fathom how Mr. Bacon could come to this conclusion based upon anything we have written. Again, I remind the reader that if Mr. Bacon claims to have meant to say that the PRCE believes it is necessary to take Covenants only in regard to the wellbeing of the church, his crime is further aggravated. For if he understood what we really meant, then why did he fail to qualify his public charges, and thereby lead young and inexperienced Christians to the wrong conclusions?
Mr. Bacon admits his confusion in his Defense Departed.
Mr. Bacon admits his confusion in the following excerpt from his Defense Departed when he says:
This demonstrates two things about their dissociation: first, it proves that Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton, regardless of confused and confusing statements to the contrary, considers "the covenants" to be a necessary sine qua non of a church's constitution if that church is to be considered a true church (Defense Departed).
I can understand why he thinks our dissociation was confused, since it's apparent he did not understand what we were saying. The point I wish to make here is that the word "confusing" used in this context can only refer to Mr. Bacon's own confusion. If he didn't understand what we meant then why didn't he ask us before going to such an extreme? Why would he draw conclusions "regardless" of confused and confusing statements? Shouldn't he have regarded his confusion as a signal to ask more questions before penning public charges against us? Even under the most charitable construction his actions are sinful and in need of repentance.
A description of the Covenants, their binding nature, purpose, and relevance to the modern day church.
Having dealt with Mr. Bacon's first two accusations I will now proceed to discuss Mr. Bacon's erring comments regarding the binding nature of the Solemn League and Covenant. To do this I intend to follow the following format. First, I will establish that both the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant were originally intended to be sworn as an everlasting covenant. Second, I will establish the purpose for which the Covenants were sworn, viz., to glorify God, and to preserve and maintain the true church (as to wellbeing). Third, I will demonstrate who the original parties were in the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant. Fourth, I will prove that Canada and the United States were among the parties bound by the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant Fifth, I will pinpoint exactly where Mr. Bacon has erred as I discuss the intrinsic obligation of the Covenants. Sixth, we will answer the question Do the circumstantial details of the Solemn League and Covenant bind us? Seventh, I will discuss the negative application of the Covenants, and briefly examine the concepts of withdrawal, censure and separation.
a. The original intent of the Covenanters was to swear an everlasting Covenant never to be forgotten.
When interpreting any historical document we must strive to ascertain the original intent of the authors of that document. In many cases this is difficult and time consuming, though in this case it is easy and obvious. Those who originally swore the Covenants left us no doubt as to what their intentions were.
1. The National Covenant was intended and sworn as an everlasting Covenant.
On September 22, 1638, six months after the National Covenant was renewed in Scotland we read the following protest against the proclamation of King Charles I, which called for the Covenanters to forget their subscription of 1638 and to renew the National Covenant as it was subscribed in 1580.
That by this new subscription [which Charles I was proposing GB] our late Covenant [of 1638 GB], and Confession may be quite absorbed and buried in oblivion, that where it was intended and sworn to be an everlasting Covenant never to be forgotten, it shall never more be remembered, the one shall be cryed up, and the other drowned in the noise thereof (Records of the Church of Scotland, p. 86, "The Protestation of the Noblemen, Barons, Gentlemen, Burrowes, Ministers, and Commons" [after reading the proclamation dated September 9, 1638], emphases added).
2. The Solemn League and Covenant was intended and sworn as an everlasting Covenant.
John Brown (of Haddington), in his book entitled, The Absurdity and Perfidy of All Authoritative Toleration, (1803), points out that the Westminster Assembly considered the Solemn League and Covenant an "everlasting covenant."
That the body of the English nation also swore the Solemn League and Covenant, is manifest. The Westminster Assembly and English Parliament, affirm, "The honourable house of Parliament, the Assembly of Divines, the renowned city of London, and multitudes of other persons of all ranks and quality in this nation, and the whole body of Scotland, have all sworn it, rejoicing at the oath so graciously seconded from heaven. God will, doubtless, stand by all those, who with singleness of heart shall now enter into an everlasting covenant with the Lord" (The Absurdity and Perfidy of All Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy, Idolatry, Popery, etc., 1803, Still Waters Revival Books reprint, 1997, p. 161, emphases added).
Finally, we read the words of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (1643) where they address, "their beloved brethren, Ministers in the Church of England," in preparation for the swearing of the Covenant.
Go on in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, against all opposition, without fear of whatsoever dangers, to purge the house of the Lord, to repair the breaches thereof, to set up all his ordinances in their full beauty and perfection, to the uttermost of your power, according to the pattern of the Word of God and zeal of the best Reformed Kirks. And let these two kingdoms be knit together as one man in maintaining and promoting the truth of the Gospel. Let us enter in a perpetual Covenant for ourselves and our posterity to endeavour that all things may be done in the House of God according to his own will, and let the Lord do with us as seems good in his eyes (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], 1682, Still Waters Revival Books reprint, 1997, p. 205, emphases added).
This establishes beyond any shadow of doubt that those who originally swore the Covenants swore them with the intent of entering into an everlasting covenant with God. It is also easily observable that these Covenanters were members of a truly constituted Christian church (bene esse) before taking these Covenants. Why then would Mr. Bacon say, "it proves that Puritan Reformed Church... considers "the covenants" to be a necessary sine qua non of a church's constitution if that church is to be considered a true church," if it is so patently obvious that the Covenanters constituted a true church before swearing the Covenants? I can only think that he is trying to give others the impression that the PRCE is doing or requiring something different than the General Assembly of Scotland, when in reality our position toward the Covenants is precisely the same as theirs.
In what sense are these Covenants deemed everlasting and perpetual?
On December 18, 1996, Mr. Bacon writes to Pastor Price,
Are you seriously suggesting that not aligning ourselves with a 17th century document is sinful (that seems to be what I've read thus far in both your overture and your posts)?
Archibald Mason explains,
That the obligation of religious vows and oaths extends to posterity is evident also, from the names which the Scriptures bestow upon the church's covenants with God.
They are called an everlasting covenant,
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, AV),
and a perpetual covenant,
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, AV).
These covenants are called an everlasting covenant, and a perpetual covenant, because their obligation is durable and permanent, and extends to future generations. If the obligation of these covenants perished at the decease of the actual covenanters, they would be temporary, fleeting and transient in their nature indeed, and could have no title to these honourable appellations bestowed upon them by the Spirit of God. (Archibald Mason, "Observations on the Public Covenants Between God and the Church," 1821, cited from The Fall of Babylon the Great By the Agency of Christ and Through the Instrumentality of His Witnesses, Still Waters Revival Books reprint, 1997, p. 45, emphases added).
Like our covenanted ancestors, we believe that these Covenants were originally sworn as "everlasting covenants" and that their binding obligation extends throughout the duration of the moral person.
A definition of the term "moral person".
In his Defense Departed, Mr. Bacon inadequately describes a moral person as follows,
The term "moral person" may present just a bit of confusion to those not familiar with seventeenth century ecclesiology. By "moral person" the Steelite document refers to all those who are part of a covenantal "unit." Thus a family, a church, and a nation are all moral persons because God treats with them as they are covenanted units. I suppose a school or a business could be a moral person if the right conditions were met, though I have not seen any Steelite literature extending the term in that way (Defense Departed).
While Mr. Bacon gives a vague and general idea of this important concept, his description is so woefully inadequate that I believe it would be profitable to acquaint the reader with a more competent explanation. In so doing, we can better understand in what sense these covenants are called "everlasting."
Pastor David Scott explains:
1. Ecclesiastical and national societies are moral persons. By a moral person I mean that each of these kinds of society has an understanding and a will of its own, by which it perceives, deliberates, determines and acts. An individual person, is one that has the power of understanding and willing; the name moral person is therefore applied to a society, having an understanding and a will common to the whole body, by which, though made up of a vast number of individuals, it possesses the power of knowing, deliberating, determining, and acting. A moral person may enter into contracts and covenant obligations; and these are as valid when entered into, as the covenant obligations of individual persons. Being moral persons, churches and nations are capable of entering into covenant with God; and that it is their duty to do so, I have demonstrated in the preceding section. Such obligation, when constituted agreeably to the will of God, are necessarily perpetual; for it is not the individuals merely of which the society consists, but the society itself, as a moral person, that covenants. In the case of personal covenanting, no one will question that the covenant obligation extends throughout the whole life of the individual; the same principle prevails in relation to social covenanting: the obligation extends throughout the duration of the moral person.
2. The church is a permanently existing body. It has undergone, indeed, several changes in its external administration, but it is the same now that it was when first constituted. The church in the wilderness of Sinai is identical with the church in the days of Adam and Eve, and continues still the same moral person in the nineteenth century. The removal by death of individual members, does not destroy the identity of the moral person, which remains unaffected by the removal of a thousand generations. Covenant obligation entered into by the church, in any given period, continues of perpetual obligation throughout all succeeding generations, and that too, on the recognized principle that the church continues the same moral person.
3. National society does not possess an undying constitution like that of the church, it may be dissolved; and history presents a vast number of instances of the entire dissolution of nations. But the obligation created by national covenanting, extends throughout the duration of the society, because it is a moral person; and if the perpetuity of the obligation may be limited, it is limited only by the moral person ceasing to exist (David Scott, Distinctive Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, 1841, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 6163, emphases added).
Add to this the teaching of Thomas Houston where he further explains the nature of federal obligations:
The principle of continued or transmissible federal obligation is not liable to the objections that have been urged against it, and is no novelty. We do not make our ancestors a sort of federal head as Adam was to the human family, when we allege that our posterity are bound by their engagements. This is altogether a misrepresentation of the argument on the subject. The descending obligation of the public covenants rests upon the essential character of organised society. It is the same party in different stages of its existence that is bound to moral obedience; and the obligation rests in all its plenitude upon the community as the same moral agent, until the whole matter of the engagement be fulfilled (Thomas Houston, A Memorial of Covenanting, 1857, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 35, emphases added).
From the source above, we learn that Covenants were "everlasting" in the sense that they bind those societies who take them for the duration of their existence, or until the intended ends of the Covenants are accomplished and maintained. In other words, the covenant obligation is as perpetual as the society that takes them. To this day, the societies who took the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant continue to exist (as moral persons), and consequently, continue to be bound by all the terms and obligations of these promises. That these covenants were sworn on our behalf in the seventeenth century is as irrelevant as if they had been sworn in the twentieth century. Mr. Bacon shows his ignorance of the relevant issues when he asks, "Are you seriously suggesting that not aligning ourselves with a 17th century document is sinful?" He needs to explain exactly why he is no longer a part of the moral person of the Church of Jesus Christ descending from the Covenanted Church of Scotland (or the posterity of the Nation of Britain), before he can convince us that these covenants no longer bind us. That I am sure he could never do.
The deep pit of covenant breaking.
Those who follow Mr. Bacon's teaching walk together hand in hand within the deep pit of covenant breaking. From this pit they look up at those who plead with them to climb out, and call us "the separatists." "Come down into this pit with us," they cry. "You schismatics, don't you see it's a sin to stay separate from us? Can't you see that for hundreds of years, most of the nations have joined us down here? How can we be wrong when all the churches and ministers are ignoring the promises made to our Master? Every scholar would have to be wrong for you to be right. Join us, or we will try to set everyone down here against you." From atop the pit we say, "Brethren, you have fallen into a deep pit and we desire to be with you, except we have seen light at the top and our King has shown us the way out. We are not boasting that we are better than you. We are only pleading with you to come and see what God has graciously given. Our forefathers marked the way for us before we were born and God's Word has given us the light to see their landmarks. Those with you have moved these landmarks in order to keep you in the pit, but we can show you where they are and help you out. We cannot return to you but you must return to us (Jer.15:19). We cannot join you in the deep pit of covenant breaking, but rather you must come join us so that we might have unity in the light of the sun. This is the place where our forefathers dwelt. Come join us and keep the promises made to our Master. Tell the others and bring the whole nation with you so that we can dwell together in peace. The table is set, and we go now to His table of communion. Please climb out now and eat and drink with your brothers. They reply, "Are you seriously telling us that we must keep our fathers old promises? Our fathers are long dead and we have sailed to another land where few have even heard of these promises. Surely those actual promises don't apply to us any more. We admit that these promises are good examples and strong reminders of what our Master requires, but you want us to keep the traditions of men. You want us to climb out using the same path as our forefathers. Just because they did it that way doesn't mean we have to. We are wiser than you, and have not invented new rules to keep people from our table down here we are more tolerant and therefore we enjoy great unity. You are nearly alone, and we are all against you. Return to us, enjoy our meal and we will forgive you for climbing out of the pit." Finally, we respond, "We must go now for our Master calls. We will continue to call out to you as we go, but today you must hear our voice for if you reject it now, it will grow faint as we walk away. Soon you will become so angry with us that you will not even hear the words we say your railing will drown out the sound of our voice in your ears, and what will become of you then? We have invented no new rule, but rather we are simply calling you to keep the Master's old rule. It is He who told our fathers to make their promises. It is He who tells us that they are still binding. And it is He who tells us to keep our promises. We will continually knock on our Master's door and plead with Him to show you your error, but we warn you that His patience will not last forever. Soon He will come and reckon your account. He will ask why you did not climb out of the pit? Why you did not listen to the truth? Why you are persecuting His children? In that day you will be ashamed before the piercing eyes of the Judge. We only desire our Master's approval and your fellowship in the light. Come brethren, stop fighting with us, and follow the footsteps of the flock. Climb out of the deep pit of covenant breaking."
The General Assembly of Scotland did not mince words with those who tried to dispense with their "everlasting covenant" obligations they call it "Antichristian" and "never practised by any but that man of sin."
August 6, 1649.
Although there were none in the one kingdom who did adhere to the Covenant, yet thereby were not the other kingdom nor any person in either of them absolved from the bond thereof, since in it we have not only sworn by the Lord, but also covenanted with Him. It is not the failing of one or more that can absolve the other from their duty or tie to Him: Besides, the duties therein contained, being in themselves lawful, and the grounds of our tie thereunto moral, though the other do forget their duty, yet doth not their defection free us from that obligation which lies upon us by the Covenant in our places and stations. And the Covenant being intended and entered into by these kingdoms, as one of the best means of steadfastness, for guarding against declining times: It were strange to say that the backsliding of any should absolve others from the tie thereof, especially seeing our engagement therein is not only National, but also personal, everyone with uplifted hands swearing by himself, as it is evident by the tenor of the Covenant. From these and other important reasons, it may appear that all these kingdoms joining together to abolish that oath by law, yet could they not dispense therewith; Much less can any one of them, or any part in either of them do the same. The dispensing with oaths have hitherto been abhorred as Antichristian, and never practised and avowed by any but by that man of sin; therefore those who take the same upon them, as they join with him in his sin, so must they expect to partake of his plagues (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 474475, emphases added).
Did not the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland just equate Mr. Bacon's ideas about covenanting with the man of sin? Truly the darkness of the pit of covenantbreaking makes for strange bedfellows. Sadly, those like Mr. Bacon, who so promiscuously dispense with binding oaths, find themselves in the company of those who suffer the plagues that justly attach to their sin.
And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you. And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits. And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. (Leviticus 26:15-25, AV).
Now, I will endeavor to prove that the Covenants are intended for the wellbeing of the church and not the being of the church. This I'll do by demonstrating that the Covenanters clearly purposed to swear the covenants for the preservation and maintenance of the true church and not for the existence of it. This will demonstrate that Mr. Bacon totally misrepresents our meaning when we say it is necessary to take the Covenant of the Three Kingdoms. We mean that it is necessary for the faithfulness, preservation and maintenance of the church, but not necessary for its existence.
b. The National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant are intended to maintain and preserve the truly constituted church (wellbeing), and are not intended to create a truly constituted church (being).
The Purpose of Swearing the National Covenant.
1. In the preface to the National Covenant we read of the direct purpose of the Covenanters when they say,
...subscribed again by all sorts of persons in the year 1590, by a new ordinance of council, at the desire of the General Assembly: with a general bond for the maintaining of the true Christian religion, and the King's person; and, together with a resolution and promise, for the causes after expressed, to maintain the true religion... (emphases added).
2. Later in the same document there is again a direct statement of purpose:
In obedience to the commandment of God, conform to the practice of the godly in former times [sounds like attainments GB], and according to the laudable example of our worthy and religious progenitors [sounds like more attainments GB], and of many yet living amongst us, which was warranted also by act of council, commanding a general band to be made and subscribed by his Majesty's subjects of all ranks; for two causes: one was, For defending the true religion, as it was then reformed, and is expressed in the Confession of Faith above written, and a former large Confession established by sundry acts of lawful General Assemblies and of Parliaments, unto which it hath relation, set down in public Catechisms; and which hath been for many years, with a blessing from heaven, preached and professed in this kirk and kingdom, as God's undoubted truth, grounded only upon his written word (emphases added).
The Purpose of Swearing the Solemn League and Covenant.
1. The stated purpose of the General Assembly of Scotland for swearing the Solemn League and Covenant, viz., the most powerful mean for settling and preserving the true religion.
The General Assembly's approbation of the Solemn League and Covenant, August 17, 1643, Session 14, states:
The Assembly... All with one voice approve and embrace the same [the Solemn League and Covenant GB] as the most powerful mean, by the blessing of God, for settling and preserving the true Protestant religion with perfect peace in his Majesty's dominions and propagating the same to other nations, and for establishing his majesty's throne to all ages and generations
2. The first article of the Solemn League and Covenant states its primary purpose, viz., the preservation of the true religion in the Church of Scotland
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 in the Church of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, against our common enemies (emphases added).
These quotations establish the Covenanter's original intent and purpose in swearing the covenants. To use their own words: "Let us enter in a perpetual Covenant for ourselves and our posterity, with singleness of heart, intended and sworn to be an everlasting Covenant never to be forgotten," for the purpose of "settling and preserving the true Protestant religion with perfect peace in his Majesty's dominions and propagating the same to other nations, and for establishing his majesty's throne to all ages and generations." The PRCE intends and purposes nothing different in the taking of the Covenants than the original swearers did. Why should we alter such a godly purpose when we realize that we are still bound to these original promises? Being bound to these promises is a joy and a help to all who recognize them. These covenants do exactly what they were intended to do by promoting unity in doctrine and uniformity in practice. Truly God has been merciful to open our eyes to our past covenant breaking ways (from which, by His incomparable grace, we have repented). Having stated and demonstrated that we do not plead the necessity of taking the Covenants for the existence of the church, but rather for the preservation and maintenance of the church, we can now move on to our next consideration that of an examination of some relevant correspondence between Pastor Price and Mr. Bacon.
Mr. Bacon says it is not necessary to take the Covenant of the three kingdoms.
In an email discussion between Pastor Price and Mr. Bacon on November 20, 1996,
Pastor Price wrote:
Dick, since you acknowledge you have read the material we have sent regarding covenanting and the perpetual obligation of covenants, do you agree with us or not? What did you understand by the statement at the first meeting in Atlanta, GA: It is not necessary to take the Covenant of the three kingdoms.
Mr. Bacon replied:
I agree with 100% of what you are saying in the doctrinal and theoretical level. I also agree with 99 44/100% of what you are saying in the practical level. Also, not only I, but you and Greg [Barrow GB] agreed to the statement that "it is not necessary to take the covenant of the three kingdoms." I still do not think it is, nor do I think the material you sent has demonstrated such a necessity.
I do not understand how Mr. Bacon can honestly say that he agrees with us 100% on a doctrinal and theoretical level and 99 44/100% on a practical level. Isn't this the same man who says that we have "erred on a principle essential to the definition of Protestantism"? Did he not call us "Steelite Popes," and "these newest children of the Pharisees?" (Defense Departed). How can such agreement come from one side of his mouth while with the other side he compares our doctrine to Romanists? It would seem to me that Mr. Bacon is either very poor at math or he has severely misstated his degree of agreement with us. Nevertheless, the issue on which I wish to focus at this point is that Mr. Bacon clearly stands by the statement made by the Reformation Presbyterian Church in its pretended court: "it is not necessary to take the Covenant of the three kingdoms." This statement of the RPC, like many of their statements, is unqualified and imprecise, leaving those who are considering its import in a position of guessing exactly what was meant.
When Pastor Price asked for clarification, Mr. Bacon replied evasively:
I would be happy to answer any questions you have about the implications of taking or not taking specific historical covenants, including [the GB] Solemn League and Covenant. But I probably meant the same thing you and Greg did when you agreed to the very same phrase. Further, that question came up at our first meeting in October of 1994 and was discussed to a degree that apparently satisfied you at that time. (emphasis added)
It is true that this question did come up at our first meeting in Atlanta, GA, and it was passed with little or no discussion. I know that at the time I could not figure out why such a motion was being made at an organizational meeting. It is also true that we passed the motion in ignorance and have since publicly repented of doing so. The problem is that neither Mr. Bacon nor the Reformation Presbyterian Church have repented of doing so, and until they do, we believe them to be guilty of both obstinate covenant breaking and wilful perjury. This is the main reason for our dissociation from them.
Compare these two contrary statements,
Mr. Bacon and the Reformation Presbyterian Church say, "It is not necessary to take the Covenant of the three kingdoms."
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (16381649), and the PRCE say, "Let us enter in a perpetual Covenant for ourselves and our posterity, with singleness of heart, intended and sworn to be an everlasting Covenant never to be forgotten," for the purpose of "settling and preserving the true Protestant religion with perfect peace in his Majesty's dominions and propagating the same to other nations, and for establishing his majesty's throne to all ages and generations." Dear reader, is it not readily apparent that these two sentiments are at opposite ends of the spectrum?
How can these Covenanters designate their covenants as "everlasting" and "perpetual" if their obligations applied only to the generation of people who actually swore them? To describe something as everlasting and perpetual when in reality you mean temporary is a deception of the highest order and we would need some very compelling evidence set before us to prove that our faithful forefathers were guilty of such dishonesty. Why would they even mention their posterity if the covenants only applied to those who, in the seventeenth century, actually raised their right hand to formally swear these oaths? When Mr. Bacon states that "It is not necessary to take the covenant of the three kingdoms," does he mean that these covenants have become old and inapplicable to our times? Yes, and while he does give lip service to the Covenants' moral obligations, I will show how his neglect of its formal obligation is an error too notable to excuse. Either Mr. Bacon and the pretended presbytery of the Reformation Presbyterian Church are right and the Covenant of the three kingdoms does not intrinsically apply to the Church in Canada and the United States, or the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (16381649), and the PRCE are right and the intrinsic obligation of the covenant of the three kingdoms does obligate and bind us to an everlasting agreement. If I can prove, as I shall do presently, that these covenants were not simply made between men and nations, but rather between men and God, then we will understand why these covenants were intended and denominated everlasting and perpetual. Once we understand that God is the other party in these covenants we will see why neither time nor geography will release us from the oaths made on our behalf by our covenanted forefathers. Because our promise is to God, and these covenants have been sworn in His name, we can be released from their obligation only upon the authority of God himself. Mr. Bacon needs to prove that God has released us from this formal obligation and he needs to prove exactly how and when that happened if he hopes to maintain his argument. To date all he has done is arrogantly declared that it is not necessary to take these covenants, and in so doing he has spoken directly contrary to the original intention of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
To prove the position that these "everlasting covenants" still morally obligate us, and that to uphold them is necessary to the wellbeing of the church, we must answer this question: Who are the parties involved in the Covenant?
c. The covenanting parties in the National Covenant are God, the Church of Scotland, and the Nation of Scotland (inclusive of all their posterity).
To determine who the covenanting parties are we must go directly to the Covenants themselves.
First, I cite the Act Ordaining, by Ecclesiastical Authority, the Subscription of the Confession of Faith and Covenant [National Covenant GB], with the Assembly's Declaration, to show that the covenanting parties are God Himself and the Church and Nation of Scotland.
The General Assembly considering the great happiness which may flow from a full and perfect union of this kirk and kingdom, by joining of all in one and the same Covenant with God, with the King's Majesty, and amongst ourselves; having, by our great oath, declared the uprightness and loyalty of our intentions in all our proceedings; and having withal supplicated his Majesty's high Commissioner, and the Lords of his Majesty's honourable Privy Council, to enjoin, by act of council, all the lieges in time coming to subscribe the Confession of Faith and Covenant; which, as a testimony of our fidelity to God, and loyalty to our King, we have subscribed (The National Covenant, emphases added).
We all and every one of us underwritten, protest, That, after long and due examination of our own consciences in matters of true and false religion, we are now thoroughly resolved in the truth by the word and Spirit of God: and therefore we believe with our hearts, confess with our mouths, subscribe with our hands, and constantly affirm, before God and the whole world, that this only is the true Christian faith and religion, pleasing God, and bringing salvation to man (The National Covenant, emphases added).
Neither do we fear the foul aspersions of rebellion, combination, or what else our adversaries, from their craft and malice, would put upon us; seeing what we do is so well warranted, and ariseth from an unfeigned desire to maintain the true worship of God, the majesty of our King, and the peace of the kingdom, for the common happiness of ourselves and our posterity (The National Covenant, emphases added).
The Covenanting Parties in the Solemn League and Covenant are God and the Churches of Scotland, England and Ireland, and the Nations of Scotland, England, Ireland, as well as all their posterity (in all the King's dominions).
THE Solemn League and Covenant, for reformation and Defense of religion, the honour and happiness of the King, and the peace and safety of the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland; agreed upon by Commissioners from the Parliament and Assembly of Divines in England, with Commissioners of the Convention of Estates and General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; approved by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and by both Houses of Parliament, and the Assembly of Divines in England, and taken and subscribed by them anno 1643; and thereafter, by the said authority, taken and subscribed by all ranks in Scotland and England the same year; and ratified by act of the Parliament of Scotland anno 1644. (And again renewed in Scotland, with an acknowledgement of sins and engagements to duties, by all ranks, anno 1648, and by Parliament, 1649; and taken and subscribed by King Charles II, at Spey, June 23, 1650; and at Scoon, January 1, 1651) (The Solemn League and Covenant, emphases added).
...for the preservation of ourselves and our religion from utter ruin and destruction, according to the commendable practice of these kingdoms in former times, and the example of GOD'S people in other nations, 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 (The Solemn League and Covenant, emphases added).
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 in the Church of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, against our common enemies; the reformation of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the Word of God, and the example of the best reformed Churches; and shall endeavour to bring the Churches of GOD in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, Directory for Worship and Catechising; that we, and our posterity after us, may, as brethren, live in faith and love, and the Lord may delight to dwell in the midst of us. (The Solemn League and Covenant, emphases added).
John Cunningham explains the nature of these covenants and their relation to the Covenant of Redemption and the Covenant of Grace as follows:
Covenanting is the exercise of either entering, in an individual or a social capacity, solemnly and formally into the Covenant of Grace, or of renewing it. From the definition it follows, that by Covenanting men do make a covenant with God. The renovation of a covenant is not less a covenant than was the original bond. In Covenanting is given that acquiescence in the conditions of the Covenant of Grace which is an essential of a covenant, and the free offer to enter into it being continued, acceptance in the service is enjoyed. As certainly, therefore, as that called the Covenant of Grace, is in reality a covenant, is every lawful engagement entered into by solemnly Covenanting with God possessed of the character of a covenant. But such a covenant is not distinct from the Covenant of Redemption, nor from the Covenant of Grace. It is dependent on that covenant as made with the Mediator, and consistent with it as established with men. In all the three cases the God of grace is one of the contracting parties (John Cunningham, The Ordinance of Covenanting, 1843, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 8, 9, emphases added).
John Guthrie, faithful minister of Christ (one of the 400 ministers banished by the King in 1660), explains the importance of recognizing that God is a party in the Solemn League and Covenant.
But these three lands are one party, and the God of heaven is the other party; therefore, though England should break, should Scotland also break the Covenant? It is not after this tenor: We will endeavour reformation in these lands, but if you break, we will break also. No; it is each man swearing for himself that he shall, in his place and station, endeavour reformation, so that if it were left all to one man, he must endeavour reformation. For, consider the last words of the article. Each of them for himself did lift up his hands to the Most High; and so these three lands are one party, and the other party is the God of heaven. Consider seriously upon it, for it is the thing that you must either suffer for or sin, ere it be long, without remedy. Whatever England and Ireland have done in breaking the covenant, we say they justly must smart for it, according to the Word of God, if God in mercy prevent it not. Nevertheless, as long as there are in these lands any who keep the covenant, we are bound to keep it; and suppose there are many who had rather suffer for it than sin, as witness the many scattered flocks and shepherds in these lands and supposing this were not, though both England and Ireland should quit it, yet Scotland is bound to it (John Howie, Sermons Delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland, 1880, SWRB reprint, 1996, p. 668).
Further on in the same sermon Guthrie continues:
Now, a word to that which I mentioned before. What shall we do since these lands have broken covenant with God? I tell you that Scotland is bound to keep it, although England and Ireland have broken it; and although Scotland break it, yet Ireland and England are bound to stand to it. "Though thou Israel play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend;" that is to say, As for you at this present time, though England and Ireland have broken, yet let not Scotland so do too. Suppose there were but one family in these lands that would stand to it, and if all that family should turn their back upon it except one person, truly that person is bound to stand to it. "Choose you whom you will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Here is but a family, so that if all the kingdom should forswear the covenant, yet so long as I am master of a family, I must serve the Lord. I must not serve other gods, that is to say, we should not serve Popes nor Prelates, &c. But what if it come to this, that there be no man to bide by it at all but one man? That man is bound to keep it according to Scripture. "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only am left." From these words I conclude, though England has forsaken yet Scotland is bound; and though Scotland should forsake yet England is bound; and though both forsake yet one family is bound to stand to it. Therefore study to know your duty lest the wrath of God come upon you and your posterity. Believe these things, for our king and princes, nobles and ministers, and all the people, and our posterity, are bound to it. So I leave it to you with this: Happy is that man that shall be steadfast in the covenant, though all the rest should forsake it. But as to the persons who shall continue steadfast, God has reserved that to Himself as a piece of His sovereignty. Again, we hear not tell of a public covenant ever sworn and broken but God visibly plagued the breakers thereof (John Howie, Sermons Delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland, 1880, pp. 673674).
What could extend and transmit an obligation to posterity if swearing an everlasting covenant with God on behalf of posterity fails to accomplish the task? The evidence already presented must forcibly lead the reader to understand that the obligations of the Covenants are extended far beyond the original covenanters.
Mr. Bacon disputes with Thomas M'Crie.
On December 18, 1996, Mr. Bacon wrote to Pastor Price,
Are you seriously suggesting that not aligning ourselves with a 17th century document is sinful (that seems to be what I've read thus far in both your overture and your posts)? If so, then you have made that 17th century document the rule of faith and practice. Necessity is not laid upon me to hold the traditions of men else God shares the throne of my conscience with mortals.
Thomas M'Crie replies:
If there is any truth in the statements that have now been made, the question respecting the obligation of the British covenants is deeply interesting to the present generation. The identity of a nation, as existing through different ages, is, in all moral respects, as real as the identity of an individual through the whole period of his life. The individuals that compose it, like the particles of matter in the human body, pass away and are succeeded by others; but the body politic continues essentially the same. If Britain contracted a moral obligation, in virtue of a solemn national covenant, for religion and reformation, that obligation must attach to her until it has been discharged. Have the pledges given by the nation been yet redeemed? Do not the principle stipulations in the covenant remain unfulfilled unto this day? Are we not as a people still bound by that engagement to see these things done? Has the lapse of time cancelled the bond? Or, will a change of sentiments and views set us free from its tie? Is it not the duty of all friends of reformation to endeavour to keep alive a sense of this obligation on the public mind? But although all ranks and classes in the nation should lose impressions of it, and although there should not be a single religious denomination, nor even a single individual, in the land, to remind them of it, will it not be held in remembrance by One, with whom, "a thousand years are as one day, and one day as a thousand years" (Thomas M'Crie, Unity of the Church, 1821, reprinted in 1989 by Presbyterian Heritage Publications, p. 200, 1821, reprinted 1989, emphases added).
Yes, Mr. Bacon, I am seriously suggesting that you align yourself with these seventeenth century covenants, and you do not have have to bind your conscience to the rules of men to do it. You only have to keep a promise and own an obligation intended for your good, made by those who represented you in an everlasting covenant with God. This promise is one that God will require of you even if 354 years have passed since it was sworn. Have you forgotten Saul and the Gibeonite oath?
And Joshua made peace with them [the Gibeonites GB], and made a league [covenant GB] with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them (Joshua 9:15, AV).
Then there was a famine in the days of David three years, year after year; and David enquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites. And the king called the Gibeonites, and said unto them; (now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; and the children of Israel had sworn unto them: and Saul sought to slay them in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah) (2 Samuel 21:12, AV).
Scripture says that Saul, in his zeal, and with the best of intentions, broke an approximately 400 year old covenant, made between Joshua and the Gibeonites. God was far more than "seriously suggesting;" rather, He was "definitely requiring" that Saul keep a 400 year old promise made by his forefather Joshua. God sorely punished Israel, and the whole nation had to endure three years famine for Saul's covenant breaking zeal. Is the PRCE seriously suggesting that God will hold us to a 350 year old covenant made by our forefathers? Yes! What will Mr. Bacon and his children have to suffer before he admits his sin and repents? Will his whole house have to suffer before he realizes his error? What will this covenant breaking nation have to suffer before they mend their perfidious ways? God has not changed and He will require us to pay our vows whether they were made in the seventeenth century or in 1997.
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto (Galatians 3:15, AV).
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain (Exodus 20:7, AV).
When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee (Deuteronomy 23:2122, AV).
d. Who are the posterity referred to in the Covenants?
Since Mr. Bacon claims that he is not intrinsically bound by these everlasting covenants, it is very important to answer this question Who were the posterity to whom the Covenanters intended this everlasting covenant to apply? Are we in Canada and the United States included in these everlasting covenants with God? This is settled beyond all doubt when the General Assembly says that they originally intended to swear an everlasting covenant for settling and preserving peace in "all his Majesty's Dominions." Obviously, this raises yet another question Who were included among the dominions of Charles I or Charles II at the time this covenant was sworn?
Canada and the United States were a part of "his Majesty's dominions" when the Covenant was sworn and consequently we are morally and formally bound to own, renew and adopt these everlasting covenants.
I would like to thank Pastor Greg Price for allowing me to use the following draft from his forthcoming book entitled, A Peaceable Plea or Worldwide Protestant Unity, in response to this particular question.
Since we acknowledge that we are the individual, ecclesiastical, and national posterity of the covenanted kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, we confess it to be our solemn duty not only to own the obligation of the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant, but also, to renew as a public testimony our sworn duty to these covenants as God's people. For the sake of any who would question that those individuals and families of British descent, or those churches that have descended from the Presbyterian churches of the Second Reformation in Great Britain, or those nations, colonies, or territories that have directly descended from Great Britain are morally and formally bound by these solemn Covenants we offer the following brief testimony.
1. The Westminster Assembly, the Church of Scotland, and the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland swore the Solemn League and Covenant on behalf of not only their living posterity, but also on behalf of all their individual, ecclesiastical, and national posterity for all ages to come.
We Noblemen, Barons, Knights, Gentlemen, Citizens, Burgesses, Ministers of the Gospel, and Commons of all sorts, in the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland, by the providence of GOD, living under one King, and being of one reformed religion. . . 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. . . we shall each one of us, according to our place and interest, endeavour that they may remain conjoined in a firm peace and union to all posterity (Solemn League and Covenant [1643 GLP], emphases added).
a. Note who the "all posterity" (as mentioned in the Solemn League and Covenant) includes in a letter written by the Westminster Assembly and sent to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (1644):
Those Winds which for a while do trouble the Aire, do withall purge and refine it: And our trust is that through the most wise Providence and blessing of God, the Truth by our so long continued agitations, will be better cleared among us, and so our service will prove more acceptable to all the Churches of Christ, but more especially to you, while we have an intentive eye to our peculiar Protestation, and to that public Sacred Covenant [i.e. the Solemn League and Covenant GLP] entered into by both the Kingdomes [Ireland is not formally omitted here, but is omitted only because this English Assembly is addressing the Scottish General Assembly GLP], for Uniformity in all his Majesties Dominions (The Acts Of The Generall Assemblies Of The Church Of Scotland [16381649 inclusive], 4 June 1644, Session 7, "The Letter from the Synod of Divines in the Kirk of England, to the General Assembly", SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 231, 232. The original spelling and punctuation have been retained, emphases added).
b. Not only did the Westminster Assembly understand the "all posterity" bound by the Solemn League and Covenant to be "all his Majesties dominions", but the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland also officially declared the same to be true in their letter (1648) to Charles I:
As we do not oppose the restitution of your Majestie to the exercise of your Royall Power; So we must needs desire that that which is GODS be given unto Him in the first place, and that Religion may be secured before the settling of any humane interest; Being confident that this way is not only most for the Honour of GOD, but also for your Majesties Honor and Safety. And therefore as it was one of our Desires to the High and Honourable Court of Parliament that they would solicte your Majestie for securing of Religion, and establishing the Solemn League and Covenant in all your Dominions [the Solemn League and Covenant having been sworn and made law by the Parliaments of England and Scotland, it was required that Charles I swear to establish it and to enforce it in all his dominions before he would be allowed to exercise his royal authority GLP] (The Acts Of The Generall Assemblies Of The Church Of Scotland , [16381649 inclusive], August 12, 1648, Session 40, The Humble Supplication of the Generall Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland unto the Kings Most Excellent Majesty, p. 439. The original spelling and punctuation have been retained, emphases added).
c. Finally, observe that not only did these ecclesiastical bodies (namely, the Westminster Assembly and the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland) interpret the "all posterity" bound by the Solemn League and Covenant to be those who lived within the bounds of "all his Majesties dominions," but it was likewise interpreted to be the case by the parliament of Scotland (February 17, 1649). Furthermore, this parliament identifies the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant to be laws that constitute the "fundamental constitution of this kingdom" which cannot be made null and void.
As likewise the manifold acts of parliament, the fundamental constitution of this kingdom anent [concerning GLP] the king's oath at his coronation, which judging it necessary that the prince and people be of one perfect religion, appointeth, that all kings and princes at the receipt of their princely authority, solemnly swear to observe in their own persons, and to preserve the religion as it is presently established and professed; and rule the people committed to their charge, according to the will of God revealed in his word, and the loveable constitutions received within this kingdom; and do sundry other things, which are more fully expressed therein: And withal, pondering their manifold solemn obligations to endeavour the securing of religion and the covenant, before, and above all worldly interests: Therefore, they do enact, ordain and declare, That before the king's majesty, who now is [Charles II GLP], or any of his successors, shall be admitted to the exercise of his royal power, he shall, by and attour the foresaid oath [i.e. the coronation oath GLP], assure and declare by his solemn oath, under his hand and seal, his allowance of the national covenant, and of the Solemn League and Covenant, and obligations to prosecute the ends thereof, in his station and calling. And that he shall consent and agree to acts of parliament establishing Presbyterian churchgovernment, the Directory for Worship, Confession of Faith and Catechisms, as they are approven by the general assembly of this kirk, and parliament of this kingdom, in all his Majesty's dominions; and that he shall observe these in his own practice and family, and that he shall never make opposition to any of these or endeavour any change thereof. (John Thorburn, Vindiciae Magistratus: or, The Divine Institution and Right Of The Civil Magistrate Vindicated [Edinburgh: D. Peterson, 1773], SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 67, emphases added).
Naturally, since both of the kingdoms of England and Ireland in their national and ecclesiastical capacity also swore the Solemn League and Covenant (1643), the Solemn League and Covenant legally became a necessary element of the "fundamental constitution" of those kingdoms ("in all his Majesty's dominions") as well.
2. Is it possible to know which nations were solemnly bound as the "all posterity" by the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) and thus included in "all his majesties dominions?" Clearly, it was all the subjects and the dominions under the Crown of Great Britain (including the United States and Canada, both of which were then designated as "the dominions in America").
a. The first colonial Charter issued by the English crown (1606) was for the settlement of Jamestown in Virginia. Here it is noted that the colony of Virginia is declared to be one of the kings "Dominions" as much as any other royal dominion, and its members are considered by James I to have the same rights as those living in the "Realm of England."
It provided that all . . . Persons, being our Subjects [i.e. subjects of the Crown of England GLP], which shall dwell and inhabit within . . . any of the said Colonies and Plantations, and every [one] of their children, which shall happen to be born within any of the Limits and Precincts of the said several Colonies and Plantations, shall Have and enjoy all Liberties, Franchises, and Immunities, within any of our other Dominions, to all Intents and Purposes, as if they had been abiding and born, within this our Realm of England, or any other of our said Dominions (Cited by Clarence Carson, Basic American Government, [Wadley, Alabama: American Textbook Committee, 1993], p. 126, emphases added).
b. In 1663, Charles II granted a charter to eight English gentlemen who had helped him regain the throne of England. The charter document contains the following description of the territory (then designated Carolina) which the eight Lords Proprietors were granted title to:
All that Territory or tract of ground, situate, lying, and being within our Dominions in America (Cited on the World Wide Web page entitled, "State Library of North Carolina," http://HAL.DCR.STATE.NC.US/ncs1home.htm, emphases added).
c. On November 11, 1743 at Middle Octarara, Pennsylvania, Reformed Presbyterians under the leadership of Rev. Alexander Craighead renewed the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant. They did so because they realized the colonies in America were "his majesties dominions" (as referred to by the Westminster Assembly, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and the Parliament of Scotland, cf. above), and they also realized that they were a constituent part of the "all posterity" included in the Solemn League and Covenant. Therefore, they were bound to own and to renew these covenants as God provided the occasion to do so in His wonderful providence.
There never was any Nation, but the Nation of the Jews and this Realm [note that these Reformed Presbyterians understood the colonies to be within the "Realm" of Great Britain and therefore bound by the national covenants of Great Britain GLP], that were so highly honoured, as for the whole Nation to enter into Covenant with the Lord; and yet, alas! how little does the Generality of this Nation think of this unspeakable Dignity! how many slight it! yea, how many look upon our National Covenants as a Yoke of Bondage, as if it were a Bondage to come under the most solemn Vows imaginable, to appear for God and his Cause, and against his Enemies? That which our renowned Forefathers gloried in as their greatest Honour and Happiness, we in this corrupt Age, do grievously despise, which discovers what base Spirits we are of, that delight more to be in League with the avowed Enemies of God's Glory, than with himself. . . . And thus our holy Covenants, National and Solemn League, discover themselves to be perpetual and of constant Obligation upon this Realm [including the colonies of America GLP].
1. By their being National in their nature, as is plain from themselves, and so had the Power of the Nation to confirm them.
2. By the Terms of them, as appears from several Sentences in the Covenants.
. The National [Covenant GLP], towards the latter End of it, which is as follows, 'And finally being convinced in our Minds, and confessing with our Mouths, that the present and succeeding Generations in this Land, are bound to keep the aforesaid National Oath and Subscription inviolable.' Again, 'We therefore faithfully promise for ourselves, our Followers, and all under us, both in public and in our particular Families and personal Carriage, to endeavour to keep ourselves, &c.'
. From the first Paragraph in the Solemn League and Covenant, which is as follows, 'That we and our Posterity after us, may as Brethren, live in Faith and Love, and that the Lord may delight to dwell in the Midst of us!'
3. That these Covenants are perpetual, and of a constant binding Power over this Realm, is further evident by their Agreeableness to the holy Word of God; that they are so, few who call themselves Presbyterians deny; yea, we know of none that ever did or can prove them to be otherwise (Rev. Alexander Craighead, Renewal of the Covenants [Middle Octorara, Pennsylvania, 1743], SWRB reprint, 1995, pp. 12, 13).
d. It is certainly worthy of note that the faithful body of Reformed Presbyterians designated as the Reformed Presbytery of Scotland issued a public testimony (entitled Act, Declaration, and Testimony for the Whole of our Covenanted Reformation, which testimony was originally emitted in 1761) of the fact that in one of the dominions of his majesty, namely Canada, Great Britain had violated its covenant obligations by permitting popery to be established as a religion within Quebec. This Reformed Presbyterian body (the Scottish heirs to the Covenanted Reformation as articulated by the Westminster Assembly) clearly understood Canada, a dominion of Great Britain, to be bound by the same covenant obligations as was Great Britain herself.
[T]here has, of late, [been GLP] a very singular instance of the same kind occurred [i.e an instance of the exercise of tyrannical civil power GLP], in the course of administration, which the presbytery cannot forbear to take notice of, but must embrace the present opportunity to declare their sense of, and testify against; and especially, as it is one that carries a more striking evidence than any of the former, of our public national infidelity and licentiousness, and of our being judicially infatuated in our national counsels, and given up of heaven to proceed from evil to worse, in the course of apostasy from the cause and principle of the reformation. We particularly mean the instance of a late bill or act, which has been agreed upon by both houses of parliament, and which also, June, 1774, was sanctioned with the royal assent, entitled "An act for making more effectual provision for the government of the province of Quebec in North America." By which act, not only is French despotism, or arbitrary power, settled as the form of civil government, but, which is still worse, popery, the Religion of Antichrist, with all its idolatries and blasphemies, has such security and establishment granted it, as to be taken immediately under the legal protection of the supreme civil authority of these nations in that vast and extensive region of Canada, lately added to the British dominions of North America. . . . How disgraceful and dishonourable is this public act in favour of popery, even to the nation itself, and its representatives, who are the authors of it. How palpably inconsistent is it with our national character and profession as Protestant, and with our national establishments, civil and ecclesiastical (both which are professedly built upon reformation from popery), to come to take that idolatrous religion under our national protection, and become defenders of the antichristian faith; nay, were it competent for the presbytery as a spiritual court, and spiritual watchmen, to view this act in a civil light, they might show at large, that it is a violation of the fundamental national constitutions of the kingdom [the Solemn League and Covenant became a legal and necessary element of the fundamental constitution of Great Britain in 1643 GLP], and reaches a blow to the credit of the legal security granted to the Protestant religion at home. We need not here mention how contrary this act is to the fundamental laws and constitutions of the kingdom of Scotland [cf. what is said by the Parliament of Scotland concerning the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant being enacted as a legal and necessary element of the fundamental laws and constitution of that kingdom GLP], which are now set aside. But it is contrary to, and a manifest violation of the Revolution and British constitution itself; contrary to the Claim of Right, yea, to the oath solemnly sworn by every English and British sovereign upon their accession to the throne, as settled by an act of the English parliament in the first year of William III. By which they are obliged to "profess, and to the utmost of their power maintain, in all their dominions [here, again, the Reformed Presbytery notes that Canada is within the dominion of Great Britain GLP], the laws of God, the true profession of the gospel, and the true reformed religion established by law." But these things the presbytery leave to such whom it may more properly concern. Let it, however, be observed that the presbytery are not here to be interpreted as approving of the abovesaid oath, as it designedly obliges to the maintenance of the abjured English hierarchy and popish ceremonies, which might better be called a true reformed lie, than the true reformed religion. Nevertheless, this being the British coronation oath, it clearly determines that all legal establishments behoove to be Protestant, and that without a violation of said oath, no other religion can be taken under protection of law but what is called Protestant religion only (The Reformed Presbytery, Act, Declaration, and Testimony, , SWRB reprint, 1995, pp. 82, 84, emphases added).
e. In a document written by Thomas Jefferson entitled "A Summary of the Rights of British America", the following brief reference to an Act from King George III demonstrates that even those living in America understood they were a dominion of his majesty.
One other act passed in the 6th year of his reign [George III GLP], entitled "An Act for the better securing dependency of his majesty's dominions in America upon the crown and parliament of Great Britain." (Cited from the World Wide Web page at: gopher://gopher.vt.edu:10010/02/106/8, emphases added).
f. The following excerpts occur in the newspaper that Benjamin Franklin published in Philadelphia (The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser) wherein reference is made to colonies in what is now Canada and the United States as being dominions of the Crown.
In considering of these questions, perhaps it may be of use to recollect; that the colonies were planted in times when the powers of parliament were not supposed so extensive, as they are become since the Revolution: That they were planted in lands and countries where the parliament had not then the least jurisdiction: That, excepting the yet infant colonies of Georgia and Nova Scotia, none of them were settled at the expense of any money granted by parliament: That the people went from hence by permission from the crown, purchased or conquered the territory, at the expense of their own private treasure and blood: That these territories thus became new dominions of the crown, settled under royal charters, that formed their several governments and constitutions, on which the parliament was never consulted; or had the least participation. Jan. 6, 1766 (Cited from the World Wide Web page at: gopher://gopher.vt.edu:10010/02/85/28, emphases added).
The Colonies had, from their first Settlement, been governed with more Ease, than perhaps can be equalled by any Instance in History, of Dominions so distant. February, 1773 (Cited from the World Wide Web page at: gopher://gopher.vt.edu:10010/02/85/28, emphases added).
We would further affirm that just as the lawful covenant of a father binds all his children presently living as well as those yet to be born ("Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?" Mal. 2:10), likewise the lawful civil covenants of national parents bind their national progeny. For if one is willing to grant that the lawful covenant of a father can bind any of his descendants, he must be willing to grant that the same lawful covenant binds all of his descendants, for the same moral obligation that rests upon any one descendant rests upon all descendants. Thus, it follows that the United States and Canada as nations (and all other national descendants of Great Britain) are children of Great Britain and are bound by the lawful covenant (i.e. the Solemn League and Covenant) of their national father solemnly sworn with uplifted hands to the living God in 1643 and renewed on various occasions in Scotland and the United States by Reformed Christians. Samuel B. Wylie (17731852), Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, noted the personal, ecclesiastical, and national obligations binding those living in America. He cogently responds to several objections raised concerning the formal obligations of covenants made by fathers on behalf of their posterity.
Objection 2: "But these covenants [i.e. the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant GLP], for which you contend, were only oaths of allegiance [to Scotland and Britain GLP], and, consequently, can have no obligation, when you remove to a foreign land."
Ans. It will be admitted, that they were oaths of allegiance; but it was primarily to the Governor of the universe, and secondarily to the government . . . . With respect to the first, let us examine whether any of those circumstances, which can dissolve allegiance [to God GLP], has actually taken place. Allegiance may cease, by any of the three following means: First, by the dissolution of the dynasty, or government, when things revert to an original state of nature. Second, by emigration. Allegiance and protection being reciprocal, when the latter is no longer necessary, the former, of consequence, ceases. Third, by breach of the mutual compact, on the part of the government. This compact, being necessarily involved in the relation between the governed and the governor, ceases to bind the former, when violated and broken through the latter. Has any of these things taken place, to dissolve our allegiance to the Supreme Ruler? . . . The oath of allegiance to the government of Britain, even were it morally constituted, however, ceases [because we have met the second condition mentioned of above, namely that of emigration from Great Britain to another nation GLP]. The conditions, on which it was entered into, no longer exist. Seeing we have emigrated from that country, the obligation, of course, is null and void. But, our relation to God still remains the same. And even by that part of the covenant, which respects allegiance to government, we hold ourselves still so far bound, that, whenever we find legitimate rulers, in the land where we live, we will consider the duty of subjection, for conscience sake, not only as a moral duty, required by the divine law, but also, as a duty unto which we are bound by covenant.
Obj. 3. "But these covenants were local, and required the performance only of local duties, and consequently, are not obligatory in other lands."
Ans. The objection is virtually answered, in removing the one immediately preceding [i.e. objection 2 GLP]. It is admitted, there are local peculiarities connected with the substance of these covenants. For these local peculiarities, we do no contend. In our terms of communion, adapted to our existing circumstances, in the United States, when recognising the obligation of these covenants, we declare, that "This obligation is not to be considered as extending to those things which are peculiar to, and practicable only in, the British isles; but only to such moral duties, as are substantially the same in all lands." Whatever things in these bonds were of a circumstantial nature, as we have hinted above, may vary with a change of circumstances. But our relation to GOD, is not a circumstantial or local thing. Love to GOD, and our neighbour, will still continue obligatory, though some circumstances, connected with the expression and exercise of it, may, and often do, vary.
Obj. 5. "These covenants were national, and so have no obligation on individuals, when they cease to be members of the national community who entered into them."
Ans. Had the duties, contained in these covenants, been only of a temporary, local, or circumstantial nature, this objection would be relevant. But we have endeavoured, above, to shew, that these bonds contemplated the duties of the moral law, which is obligatory upon all men.... But here we might enquire, of what is a nation composed? Is it not of individuals? Can a nation be nationally bound, and the individuals not be individually bound? To what is the nation nationally bound? Is it not, to yield a cheerful obedience to all GOD's holy and divine commandments, in their national character? Is not the individual individually bound to do the same, in his individual character? If he is thus bound in Britain, does the soil of Colombia loose him of all obligation to, and make him independent of, the Moral Governor? In as far as this moral obligation is concerned, between national and personal covenanting, there is only a numerical difference. In the latter, one individual is personally bound; in the former, three, four, or five millions of individuals, are personally bound. If individuals are not personally bound, they are not bound at all. To talk of an individual being [only GLP] nationally bound would be a solecism [i.e. an error GLP] worthy of the greatest blunderer (Samuel B. Wylie, A Sermon on Covenanting, SWRB, 1997, pp. 109112).
Rev. John Cunningham, a Reformed Presbyterian minister from Scotland also drew attention to the perpetual obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant upon the nations and churches descending from the Scotland, England, and Ireland.
Being scriptural in its [i.e. the Solemn League and Covenant GLP] matter, and not yet implemented, and besides, having been acquiesced in by the civil power, it is to this day binding on the nations; to this day it binds the Churches in the three kingdoms, the Church of Scotland, and all those who have seceded from it as an establishment, as well as those Presbyterians who never were connected with that Church since the Revolution [the Revolution of 1689 in which William and Mary came to the throne of Britain GLP] (John Cunningham, Ordinance of Covenanting, 1843, SWRB, 1997, pp. 374, 375).
The Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America at its meeting in 1855 clearly elaborated the binding obligation of the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant upon the posterity in the United States. Although the Reformed Presbyterian Church had by this time defected from some of the testimony of its forefathers (the Auchensaugh Renovation, and the Act, Declaration, and Testimony as terms of communion), nevertheless, it yet maintained at this point in time a faithful testimony to the binding obligation of these covenants.
These federal deeds [i.e. the National Covenant of Scotland and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms GLP] we hold to be moral in their nature and scriptural in their character, and that they descend with unabated obligation from the original covenanters to their posterity who were represented in the taking of them; and whilst we abjure any fealty or subjection to the government of that nation with which they were originally connected [i.e. Great Britain GLP], we now joyfully own and take for ourselves the Godhonoring and Godhonored place which such obligations impose, as the priceless legacy of our pious ancestors, whose faith we would follow, and whose noble example we would imitate. . . . We approve, moreover, the devotion and faithfulness of our pious predecessors, who, amidst weakness and reproach, from time to time, renewed these sacred bonds, and so contributed to perpetuate and transmit them to us, their posterity. Deploring, therefore, the sin of the profane rejection of these covenants, and their subsequent widespread neglect, desiring to be free from any participation in its guilt, seeking to confirm our own souls in a godly purpose of devotion to the service of our God Most High, and to encourage all who shall follow us in our testimony, to hold fast in his ways, we resolve to renew the National Covenant, and Solemn League and Covenant, in all their obligations, not peculiar to the church in the British Isles, but applicable in all lands, and essentially interwoven in the immutable law and word of our God (The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, Form of Covenant Renovation, 1855, pp. 8, 9).
Pastor Thomas Houston, D.D., pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Knockbracken, also confirms the perpetual obligation of these solemn covenants upon posterity when he writes,
On the ground of the moral character of our fathers' federal deeds [namely, the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant GLP], they may be regarded as, in some sort, obligatory upon other Churches and nations, besides those that can trace their descent directly from the original covenanters. And certainly, those who have sprung from the same stock, and who in America, or in the distant colonial dependencies of Britain, owe much of the scriptural light and freedom which they enjoy to the principles developed in the sacred vows of Britain, and to the blessing that has remarkably rested upon a nation, which was married to the Lord, have peculiar reasons to view these covenants as worthy of all admiration, and devoted regard (Thomas Houston, A Memorial of Covenanting, 1857, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 68).
And finally, we would draw the attention of our readers to the following words which demonstrate the attitude of faithful Reformed Presbyterians in the United States as it relates to their moral obligation to own formally the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant.
To some it may appear strange, that a Church located in the United States of America should give such prominence as it did to the British Covenants [i.e. the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant GLP]. Living in another continent, and having no political [present GLP] connection with Britain, on what ground was this matter embodied in the Testimony, and acknowledgment of the Covenants made obligatory on the members [i.e. members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church which was established as its own church court in 1798 GLP]? In answer to this it will be sufficient to quote the fourth term of Communion, as adopted by the American Church. It is to this effect: "An acknowledgment that public covenanting is an ordinance of God, to be observed by Churches and nations under the New Testament Dispensation, and that those Vows, namely, that which was entered into by the Church and Kingdom of Scotland, called the National Covenant, and that which was afterwards entered into by the three kingdoms, England, Scotland, and Ireland, and by the Reformed Churches in those kingdoms, usually called the Solemn League and Covenant, were entered into in the true spirit of that institution; and that the obligation of these Covenants extends to those who were represented in the taking of them, although removed to this or any other part of the world, in so far as they bind to duties not peculiar to the Church in the British Isles, but applicable to all lands." This amounts, we presume, simply to this that the essential principles of the Covenants concerning liberty and religion, the reciprocal duties of nations and rulers, and the obligation which both owe to Christ as Governor among the nations, were binding on American Churches and on American citizens who were of British origin (Matthew Hutchison, The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland, 1893, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 406, 407, emphases added).
(This ends Pastor Price's faithful contribution to this particular question. This writer would like to publicly thank him for his gracious assistance in this regard.)
Next, Mr. Bacon claims he is only morally bound to the covenants and that these covenants have no formal obligation in and of themselves, while the PRCE affirms that we are morally and formally bound to the covenants.
In his Defense Departed Mr. Bacon says,
So, then, we account the Solemn League and Covenant an edifying historical document which contains in it several moral duties. But we deny that the existence of moral duties within a document binds subsequent generations of the church to the historical and accidental aspects of the document. As Calvin said, these things should be "accommodated to the varying circumstances of each age and nation." It should further be noted that whatever in a document is a moral duty is a moral duty so far and only so far as it is a direct application of God's moral law (Defense Departed).
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place (Jeremiah 50:6, AV, emphases added).
Thomas M'Crie replies:
Some of the principles on which it has been attempted to loose this sacred tie are so opposite to the common sentiments of mankind, that it is not necessary to refute them: such as, that covenants, vows and oaths, cannot superadd any obligation to that which we are previously under by the law of God; and, that their obligation on posterity consists merely in the influence of example (Thomas M'Crie, Unity of the Church, 1821, reprinted in 1989 by Presbyterian Heritage Publications, p. 197).
Regarding the necessity of formally taking the Solemn League and Covenant, Mr. Bacon shows how he judges this Covenant to be little more than a godly example and an edifying historical document, materially applicable only to the seventeenth century, but not formally binding upon us today.
So the Steelite turns that which was good and useful and lawful for the church of Scotland to use in time of national and ecclesiastical distress to that which is nothing more than the imposition of traditions upon the conscience (Defense Departed).
Here Mr. Bacon alleges that the Covenants were sworn simply to provide a remedy for a temporary and national emergency.
Thomas M'Crie replies to this common objection saying,
The permanent obligation of the Solemn League results from the permanency of its nature and design, and of the parties entering into it, taken in connection with the public capacity in which it was established...the emergency which led to the formation of the covenant is one thing, and the obligation of the covenant is quite another; the former might quickly pass away, while the latter may be permanent and perpetual. Nor is the obligation of the covenant to be determined by the temporary or changeable nature of its subordinate and accessory articles. Whatever may be said of some of the things engaged to in the Solemn League there cannot be a doubt that in its great design and leading articles it was not temporary but permanent. Though the objects immediately contemplated by it religious reformation and uniformity had been accomplished, it would still have continued to oblige those who were under its bond to adhere to and maintain these attainments. But unhappily there is no need of having recourse to this line of argument; its grand stipulations remain to this day unfulfilled (Thomas M'Crie, Unity of the Church, 1821, reprinted in 1989 by Presbyterian Heritage Publications, p. 195, emphases added).
e. The Essence of Covenants Intrinsic Obligation
Mr. Bacon asserts:
Whether we speak of the moral duties, the moral and perpetual obligations, or the moral substance, we refer only and always to that which is binding on the conscience because it is from God's moral law (Defense Departed).
Pastor Greg Price responds:
We affirm that we are not only morally bound to own and renew the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant because they are agreeable to the Word of God, but we acknowledge that we are formally bound to own and renew these biblical covenants as well because they were made on our behalf. In other words, we are not only bound by these covenants because what is contained within them is agreeable to God's moral law, but we are further bound to these covenants because they were sworn on our behalf as their posterity. For if only the fathers who originally made the covenant were formally bound by the terms of the covenant, then the posterity could never be accused of having broken the covenant of their fathers they could only be accused of breaking God's moral commandments. But time and time again, the posterity are accused of breaking not only the moral commandments of God, but also of breaking the covenant of the fathers. That is simply to say that if the covenant of our fathers only morally binds us, then we are only guilty of transgression of the law of God contained therein. However, if the covenant of our fathers both morally and formally binds us, then in addition to our transgression of God's law, we are guilty of perjury as well. Thus, we have seriously aggravated our guilt by formally breaking the covenant of our fathers. That it is true that national covenants made with God formally bind the posterity is evidenced from Scripture (Greg Price, Draft from a forthcoming SWRB publication entitled, A Peaceable Plea for Worldwide Protestant Unity).
Archibald Mason adds:
The lax and prevailing sentiment by which this truth [of solemn covenant obligations GB] is opposed, is the following. Religious covenants are not formally, but only materially [or morally GB] binding. They have no real obligation in themselves, but we are bound to the duties therein, because these duties are required in the moral law. [Is this not Mr. Bacon's exact argument? GB] This dangerous opinion appears to be imbibed by many professed witnesses for the Covenanted Reformation, by the influence of which, they seem to be precipitated into the gulf of public apostasy from these principles, which they formerly espoused. It is impossible for a person to believe it, without entertaining a secret contempt of religious vows, oaths and covenants; and it is impossible for him to act upon it, without being involved in a practical opposition to them. . . . If this opinion were true, the house of Israel and the house of Judah could not be charged with breaking the covenant: they might be charged with breaking the Lord's law; but he could not have said, they have broken my covenant. If Israel's covenant with God did not bind them, by an intrinsic obligation, their iniquity could not be a breach of the covenant, but only a transgression of the law; nor could it be any way criminal from the relation it had to the covenant, but only from the reference it had to the law. We may easily know what to think of an opinion, which necessarily renders the charges the Lord brings against His backsliding people, absurd and unjust Were this opinion true, there could be no such thing among the children of men, as the sins of perfidy [i.e. breach of promise GB], covenantbreaking or perjury. Though we may pledge our veracity, by religious promises and vows unto God, if there is no [formal GB] obligation in them, there can be no perfidy, or breach of faith in our disregarding them. Though we may join ourselves to the Lord in a solemn covenant, if that deed brings us under no obligation to fulfil it, the sin of covenantbreaking can have no existence. Though we should enter into an oath to walk in the Lord's law, if this oath is not binding in itself, how can the sin of perjury, or despising the oath of God, be charged upon us. We are certain that these sins are mentioned in the Word of God, and that they are committed by men; but this opinion destroys them forever Were this sentiment right, then all the solemn acts of believers as individuals, and of the church as a body, are rendered void and useless to all intents and purposes. Of what use are promises, vows, oaths and covenants, if there is no obligation in them? If obligation to performance is refused to them, their very essence is destroyed. The mind cannot think on any of those transactions without considering an obligation to do as we have said, vowed or sworn as essential to their being. Promises, without an obligation to fulfil them, vows, without an obligation to pay them, oaths, without an obligation to perform them, and covenants, without an obligation to keep them, are monsters both in divinity, and in morals, which are created by this more monstrous opinion It is also the native import of this doctrine, that Christians are under no other obligation to duty, after they have promised, vowed and sworn unto the Lord, or covenanted with him, than they were before they engaged in these solemn and holy transactions. The man who [like Mr. Bacon GB] can believe this, there is great reason to fear, is actuated by a desire to break the bands of the Lord and His anointed, and to cast away their cords from him. These things both show the gross error of this sentiment, and serve to confirm the truth of the contrary doctrine (Archibald Mason, "Observations On The Public Covenants," 1821, pp. 40, 41, an appendix in The Fall of Babylon the Great, SWRB reprint, 1997, emphases added).
And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them (2 Kings. 17:15, AV).
They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers (Jeremiah 11:10, AV).
Moral obligation without formal obligation is precisely what Mr. Bacon pleads for. This, in essence, destroys the whole concept of covenanting.
In a December 18, 1996 email correspondence with Pastor Price, Mr. Bacon tells us exactly what he considers to be the moral and perpetual obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant:
As far as the moral and perpetual obligations of the Solemn League and Covenant, I find them fully spelled out in the documents produced by the Assembly, including the Confession, Catechisms, Form of Presbyterial Church Government, and Directory for the Public Worship of God, etc. And I adhere completely to those moral and perpetual obligations (attainments, if you prefer) (Defense Departed).
It is notable that Mr. Bacon failed to include the Acts of General Assembly in his list, but I will deal with that distinctly in the forthcoming misrepresentations. For now, we must observe that Mr. Bacon has failed to acknowledge that the swearing of the Solemn League and Covenant, in and of itself, created an intrinsic obligation, real and distinct though not separated nor separable from the law of God.
Samuel Rutherford observes that swearing such a covenant is a moral duty and that the omission of it is sinful.
To lay bands of promises and oaths upon a backsliding heart, is commanded in the third Command, and is not Judiacal, Gen. 14:22. Gen. 28:20. Psal. 132:2. Psal. 76:22. And this is sinful omission of a morally obliging duty, and morally obliging one man: so it obligeth a Nation, as affirmative precepts do: and this smells of Anabaptism to cry down all Gospelvows (Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the Survey of that Summe of Church Discipline, 1658, p. 482, SWRB reprint, 1997, emphases added).
Though a man may live and die a Christian without ever swearing or owning a particular national Covenant, Rutherford explains that failing to do so (in a covenanted land) is a sin of omission against the third commandment. The sin is committed when one fails to do all that can be done to restrain a backsliding heart, be it individual or national.
To illustrate the error Mr. Bacon is promoting I ask the reader to consider the following hypothetical situation.
A certain man finds himself backsliding and given over to misrepresenting the beliefs of others. He knows that this is a violation of the ninth commandment and he desires to repent of these foul deeds. He has learned that a lawful remedy to such sin can be found in making a personal covenant with God. Consequently, he swears an oath to God promising to endeavour to carefully read and listen to his opponent's arguments before publicly assaulting and misrepresenting them. Having done this he recognizes that he has laid a new obligation upon himself that is real and distinct though not separated or separable from God's Law. God, by means of the third commandment has instructed him that he would be negligent in not doing everything possible to keep himself from this sin. Understanding this, he views his personal covenant as a way of restraining himself from sin by using the means God has prescribed in His Law. Thus, his personal covenant is neither separated nor separable from God's third commandment. Next, this man knows that he was already bound by the ninth commandment before he took his personal covenant. What then did he accomplish by personally swearing to bind himself to something he was already entirely bound to keep? He voluntarily engaged himself to a specific duty required in God's Law and called upon God Himself to witness his selfengagement. By this act, he formed a new and distinct moral and perpetual obligation which did not exist before his swearing of the covenant. He superadded an obligation that is subordinate to God's law because it depended upon following the third and ninth commandments. It is for this reason that we can say that this covenant is real and distinct from God's Law. A new perpetual and moral obligation was formed that could either distinctly be kept or broken. Prior to making his personal covenant this man would be guilty of breaking the ninth commandment every time he misrepresented someone. However after making this selfengagement, he would be guilty of adding covenant breaking and perjury to the crime of bearing false witness. A greater band has now been laid upon him to restrain him from wantonly committing this crime. A greater chastisement will follow the violation of his promise, and conversely, a greater reward will attend his faithful keeping of it.
Thomas Houston explains:
The grand and fundamental ground of a religious covenant is the moral law. The law of God alone can bind the conscience. No oath or bond is of any force that is opposed to it.... The obligation of the law of God is primary and cannot be increased that of a voluntary oath or engagement is only secondary and subordinate. By the Divine law, we are obliged to the performance of duty whether we choose it or not by covenants we voluntarily bind ourselves.... where the vows made respect duties enjoined by the law of God, they have a intrinsic obligation of the highest and most constraining kind (Thomas Houston, A Memorial of Covenanting, 1857, SWRB , 1997, p. 29, emphases added).
Returning to the previously noted hypothetical situation, we see in light of Thomas Houston's concise explanation, that the vow taken by the man given over to misrepresenting others is no new rule of duty, but a new bond to make the law of God his rule. This intrinsic obligation of covenanting applies to all lawful covenants made by man and it is the very essence of all covenants. Once a new bond is sworn an additional obligation is formed that can either be kept or broken. This is what happened when the Solemn League and Covenant was sworn. This intrinsic obligation is what Mr. Bacon is attempting to avoid when he says "it is not necessary to take the covenant of the three kingdoms." He says he is willing to be bound by the Law of God, but he sees no reason to actually own a seventeenth century covenant any further than that. He believes this covenant to be an edifying historical document that lawfully served its purpose for that particular situation and time. He believes it to be a faithful example, but sadly, to him, it serves only as a mere acknowledgement and reminder that God's law requires obedience and perhaps that extreme circumstances call for more drastic remedies. I think it is safe to say that Mr. Bacon does not think the swearing of the Solemn League and Covenant has added any new obligation to himself personally or to the Reformation Presbyterian Church corporately. The same moral and perpetual obligations that existed before the Solemn League and Covenant was sworn are precisely the same moral and perpetual obligations to which he is bound after it was sworn: no less, no more. By his reckoning the swearing of the Solemn League and Covenant was simply a restatement of already existing moral obligations sworn in an agreement only applicable to the then existing generation. To Mr. Bacon no new, real and distinct, superadded, perpetual obligation was formed when the Solemn League and Covenant was sworn. By his reckoning there is no way for Mr. Bacon or anyone else in 1997 to break the actual Solemn League and Covenant itself. This is what he is saying when he says that, "it is not necessary to take the covenant of the three kingdoms."
Commenting upon the distinct nature of superadded covenant obligations Thomas Houston explains the error of Mr. Bacon's position:
But, moreover, religious covenants have an obligation distinct and peculiar. Although the authority of God, expressed in his law and speaking through his word, is supreme and cannot possibly be increased, there may be a superadded obligation on a man's conscience to respect and obey His authority, arising from his own voluntary oath or engagement. This is easily illustrated. We are bound at all times to speak the truth, and to fulfil our promises and federal engagements. If an oath is taken to declare the truth, this adds nothing, it is true, to the authority of the law; but it brings the person swearing under an additional obligation to speak the truth. This does not increase the original obligation; and yet it may be properly regarded as a new and different obligation. An oath is enjoined by Divine authority, and cannot therefore be useless. When properly taken, it is important and valuable. Before the oath was taken, if a person deviated from the truth, he was simply guilty of lying but afterward, if he speaks falsely, he has added to his sin the crime of perjury. In the former case, he rebelled against the authority of God in the latter, he violates both the authority of God and repugns the obligation of his oath. The usages of all civil society confirms the doctrine of superadded obligation, arising from oaths and voluntary engagements; and regards perjured persons and covenant breakers as aggravated criminals. It has been justly observed, that a, "Covenant does not bind to anything additional to what the law of God contains, but it additionally binds." (William Symington, Nature and Obligation of Public Vowing, p. 22). This superadded obligation of vows oaths and covenants is plainly recognized in Scripture, (See Numbers xxx. 2; Deut. xxiii. 21; Eccles. v. 4,5). Divine threatenings distinctly specify, as a separate ground of punishment, breach of covenant, in addition to the transgression of God's law. (Thomas Houston, A Memorial of Covenanting, 1857, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 29, 30, emphases added).
The PRCE believes that a superadded obligation was formed when the Solemn League and Covenant was taken. As a result, this obligation, superadded and subordinate to God's law, could now be either broken or kept. By entering into this everlasting covenant, our covenanted ancestors voluntarily engaged themselves and their posterity to God and thus we now must formally own, adopt and renew both the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant. The obligations, intrinsic to both covenants, cannot be ignored without violating our forefathers agreement with God. This is the reason we say, contrary to Mr. Bacon, that it is necessary to take, own and renew the covenants of the three kingdoms. Please understand that swearing a covenant is not making a new law, neither is it more directly placing ourselves under the law of God (which is impossible), nor is it establishing ourselves in some new relation to God's law. God has strictly commanded us to keep his entire law and it would be foolish to infer that a mere man, by swearing a covenant, could add some new relation to the law of God which He has not already required. To imply such a thing is to strike at the perfection of the law of God, at the perfection of God Himself, and consequently at the perfectly finished work of Jesus Christ. We, like our representative forefathers, are not inventing a new rule of law; rather, we voluntarily engage ourselves to make God's law our rule. Understanding the nature of our voluntary engagement and the intrinsic moralperpetual obligation of covenants is critical to understanding why we (and all moral persons represented in the covenants) must uphold both covenants in 1997. Mr. Bacon errs when he teaches that it is not necessary to take the covenants of the three kingdoms because he has not properly considered their intrinsic obligation. His misunderstanding of the fundamental concept involved in all covenanting lies at the heart of his error and is one of the prime causes of his gross misrepresentation of our position. As long as Mr. Bacon continues in his present misapprehension of this truth he will fall under the faithful censure of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and we will faithfully honor their ruling and remain withdrawn from him.
On July 27, Session 27, 1649, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland declared:
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, [16381649 inclusive], 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 460).
Similarly, on August 6, 1649, they say:
It is no small grief to us that the Gospel and Government of Jesus Christ are so despised in the land, that faithful preachers are persecuted and cried down, that toleration is established by law and maintained by military power and that the Covenant is abolished and buried in oblivion. All which proceedings cannot but be looked upon as directly contrary to the Oath of God lying upon us and therefore we cannot eschew his wrath when he shall come in judgment to be a swift witness against those who falsely swear against His name (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 472473).
In 1643 the Solemn League and Covenant was sworn and a superadded obligation was formed. This obligation bound the moral persons of Church and Nation for the duration of their existence. Consider the following argument framed by John Brown of Haddinton as he explains how the intrinsic obligation of the covenants constitute their very essence and how these obligations are real and distinct though not separated or separable from God's law. When our nations' ministers understand the implications of this point, they will be much closer to mending their covenant breaking ways.
The intrinsic obligation of promises, oaths, vows, and covenants which constitutes their very essence or essential form, is totally and manifestly distinct from the obligation of the law of God in many respects.
1. In his law, God, by the declaration of his will as our supreme Ruler, binds us, Deut. xii. 32. In promises, vows, covenants, and promissory oaths, we, as his deputygovernors over ourselves, by a declaration of our will, bind ourselves with a bond, bind our souls with our own bond, our own vow, Num.. xxx. Psalm lxvi. 13.15. & cxix. 106. &c.
2. The obligation of our promises, oaths and covenants is always subject to examination by the standard, of God's law, as to both its matter and manner, I Thess. v. 12. But it would be presumption, blasphemous presumption, to examine, Whether, what we know to be the law of God be right and obligatory, or not, James iv. 11,12. Isa.. viii. 20. Deut. v. 32.
3. The law of God necessarily binds all men to the most absolute perfection in holiness, be they as incapable of it as they will, Matth. v.48. I Pet. i. 15, 16. No man can, without mocking and tempting of God, bind himself by vow or oath to any thing, but what he is able to perform. No man may vow to do anything which is not in his own power, and for the performance of which he hath no promise of ability from God. But, no mere man since the fall is able, in this life either in himself or by any grace received form God, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, Eccl. vii. 23. James iii.2. While God remains God, his law can demand no less than absolute perfection in holiness. While his word remains true, no mere man since the fall, in this life, can possibly attain to it; and therefore ought never to promise or vow it. The least imperfection in holiness, however involuntary, breaks the law of God, and is even contrary to the duty of our relative stations of husbands, parents, masters, magistrates, ministers, wives, children, servants or people, I John iii. 4. Rom.. vii. 14, 23, 24. But it is only by that which is, in some respect, voluntary sinfulness, that we break our lawful vows, Psal. xliv. 47. Nothing can more clearly mark the distinction of the two obligations, than this particular. There is no evading the force of it, but either by adopting the Arminian new law of sincere obedience, or by adopting the Popish perfection of saints in this life.
4. The law of God binds all men forever, whether in heaven or hell, Psal.. cxi. 7, 8. No human law or selfengagement binds men, but only in this life, in which they remain imperfect, and are encompassed with temptations to seduce them from their duty. In heaven they have no need of such helps to duty, and in hell they cannot be profited by them. The obligation of lawful promises, oaths, vows and covenants, as well as of human laws, respecting moral duties, however distinct is no more separable from the obligation of God's law, than Christ's two distinct natures are separable, the one from the other, but closely connected in manifold respects. In binding ourselves to necessary duties, and to other things so long and so far as is conducive thereto, God's law as the only rule to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him, is made the rule of our engagement. Our vow is no new rule of duty, but a new bond to make the law of God our rule. Even Adam's engagement to perfect obedience in the covenant of works was nothing else. His fallibility in his estate of innocence, made it proper, that he should be bound by his own consent or engagement, as well as by the authority of God. Our imperfection in this life, and the temptations which surround us, make it needful, that we, in like manner, should be bound to the same rule, both by the authority of God, and our own engagements. It is in the law of God, that all our deputed authority to command others, or to bind ourselves is allotted to us. The requirement of moral duties by the law of God obligeth us to use all lawful means to promote the performance of them; and hence requires human laws and selfengagements, and the observance of them as conducive to it. Nay they are also expressly required in his law, as his ordinances for helping and hedging us in to our duty. In making lawful vows, as well as in making human laws we exert the deputed authority of God, the supreme Lawgiver, granted to us in his law, in the manner which his law prescribes, and in obedience to its prescription. In forming our vows as an instituted ordinance of God's worship, which he hath required us to receive, observe, and keep pure and entire, Psal.. lxxvi. 11. & cxix. 106. & lvi. 12. Isa.. xix. 18, 21. & xlv. 23, 24. & xliv. 5. Jer. l. 5, 2 Cor. viii.5, we act precisely according to the direction of his law, and in obedience to his authority in it, binding ourselves with a bond, binding our soul with a bond, Num. xxx. 211 binding ourselves by that which we utter with our lips ver. 2, 6, 12, binding ourselves with a binding oath, binding ourselves binding our soul by our own vow our own bond, ver. 4,7,14. In forming our vow, we, according to the prescription of his own law, solemnly constitute God, who is the supreme Lawgiver and Lord of the conscience, the witness of our selfengagement, and the Guarantee, graciously to reward our evangelical fulfilment of it, and justly to punish our perfidious violation of it. The more punctual and faithful observation of God's law, notwithstanding our manifold infirmities and temptations, and the more effectual promotion of his glory therein, is the end of our selfengagements, as well as of human laws of authority. And by a due regard to their binding force, as above stated, is this end promoted, as hereby the obligation of God's law is the more deeply impressed on our minds, and we are shut up to obedience to it, and deterred from transgressing it. In consequence of our formation of our vow, with respect to its matter, manner, and end, as prescribed by God, He doth, and necessarily must ratify it in all its awful solemnities, requiring us by his law, to pay it as a bond of debt, to perform and fulfil it as an engagement to duties, and an obligation which stands upon or against us, Num. xxx. 5, 7, 9, 11. with Deut. xxiii. 2123. Psalm lxxvi. 11. & 1. 14. Eccl. v.4, 5. Mat. v. 33. In obedience to this divine requirement, and considering our vow, in that precise form, in which God in his law, adopts and ratifies it, and requires it to be fulfilled, we pay, perform, and fulfil it as a bond, wherewith we, in obedience to Him, have bound ourselves, to endeavour universal obedience to his law, as our only rule of faith and manners. Whoever doth not, in his attempts to obey human laws or to fulfil selfengagements, consider them as having that binding force which the law of God allows them; he pours contempt on them, as ordinances of God, and on the law of God for allowing them a binding force. Thus, through maintaining the superadded but subordinate obligation of human laws, and of selfengagements to moral duties, we do not make void, but establish the obligation of God's law. The obligation of a vow, by which we engage ourselves to necessary duties commanded by the law of God, must therefore be inexpressibly solemn. Not only are we required by the law of God before our vow was made; but we are bound in that performance, to fulfil our vow, as an engagement or obligation founded in the supreme authority of his law warranting us to make it. We are bound to fulfil it as a mean of further impressing his authority manifested in his law, upon our own consciences, as a bond securing and promoting a faithful obedience to all his commandments. We are bound to fulfil it, in obedience to that divine authority, by derived power from which, we as governors of ourselves made it to promote his honour. In those or like respects, our fulfilment of our vows is a direct obedience to his whole law. We are moreover bound to fulfil it, as a solemn ordinance of God's worship, the essential form of which lies in selfobligation, and must be received, observed, kept pure and entire, and holily and reverently used, and so in obedience to Command I. II. III. We are bound to fulfil it, as an ordinance of God, in which we have pledged our own truth, sincerity and faithfulness and so in obedience to Command IX. I. II. III. We are bound to fulfil it, as a solemn deed or grant, in which we have made over our persons, property, and service to the Lord and his Church; and so in obedience to Command I. II. VIII. nay, in obedience to the whole law of love and equity, Mat. xxii. 37, 39. & vii. 12. We are bound to fulfil it from regard to the declarative glory of God, as the witness of our making of it, that he may appear to have been called to attest nothing, but sincerity and truth; and so in obedience to Command I. III. IX. We are bound to fulfil it from a regard to truth, honesty, and reverence of God, as things not only commanded by his law, but good in themselves, agreeable to his very nature, and therefore necessarily commanded by him, and from a detestation of falsehood, injustice, and contempt of God, as things intrinsically evil, contrary to his nature, and therefore necessarily forbidden in his law; and thus in regard to his authority in his whole law, as necessarily holy, just and good. We are bound to fulfil it, from a regard to the holiness, justice, faithfulness, majesty, and other perfections of God, as the Guarantee of it, into whose hand we have committed the determination and execution of its awful sanction, as the gracious rewarder of our fidelity, or just revenger of our perfidy, and hence in regard to our own happiness, as concerned in that sanction. In fine, we are bound to fulfil it in obedience to that command of God, which adopts and ratifies it, requiring us to pay, fulfil, or perform our vow, oath or covenant, Psal. L. 14. & lxxvi. 11. Eccl. v. 4. Deut. xxiii. 21, 23. Mat. v. 33.
In violating such a vow, We do not merely transgress the law of God, as requiring the duties engaged, before the vow was made. But we also rebel against, and profane that divine warrant, which we had to make our vow. We profane that authority over ourselves in the exercise of which we made the vow, and consequentially that supreme authority in God, from which ours was derived; and so strike against the foundation of the whole law.
We manifest a contempt of that law, which regulated the matter and manner of our vow. We profane the vow, as an ordinance of God's worship, appointed in his law. By trampling on a noted mean of promoting obedience to all the commands of God, we mark our hatred of them, and prepare ourselves to transgress them, and endeavour to remove the awe of God's authority and terror of his judgments from our consciences. We blasphemously represent the Most High as a willing witness to our treachery and fraud. We pour contempt on him, as the Guarantee of our engagements, as if he inclined not, or durst not avenge our villainy. Contrary to the truth and faithfulness required in his law, and pledged in our vow, we plunge ourselves into the most criminal deceit and falsehood. Contrary to equity, we rob God and his Church of that which we had solemnly devoted to their service. Contrary to devotion, we banish the serious impression of God's adorable perfections. Contrary to good neighbourhood, we render ourselves a plague and curse, and encourage others to the most enormous wickedness. Contrary to the design of our creation and preservation, we reject the glory of God, and obedience to his law from being our end. Meanwhile, we trample on the ratification of our vow, by the divine law in all its awful solemnities, and manifold connections with itself, and requirement to pay it.
It is manifest, that our covenanting ancestors understood their vows in the manner above represented. They never represent them as mere acknowledgments of the obligation of God's law, or as placing themselves in some new relation to God's law, or more directly under any command of it. But declare that a man binds himself by a promissory oath to what is good and just. It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance. By a vow we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties. And, in expressions almost innumerable, they represent the obligation of their vows as distinct and different, though not separable from the law of God. They no less plainly declared, that no man may bind himself by oath to any thing, but what he is able and resolved to perform; no man may vow any thing which is not in his own power, and for the performance of which he hath no promise of ability from God. And in their several forms of covenant, they never once pretend to engage performing of duties in that absolute perfection which is required by the law of God, but sincerely, really, and constantly to endeavour the performance of them (John Brown of Haddinton, The Absurdity and Perfidy of all Authoritative Toleration, 1803, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 120127, emphases added).
While it isn't necessary to take the Solemn League and Covenant to become a Christian, it is necessary to own it in a land that is formally bound to this everlasting covenant with God. Once this covenant was sworn it formed an obligation that became a test of Christian faithfulness and a subordinate and secondary rule of faith agreeable to God's Word. The intrinsic obligation of the Solemn League and Covenant is real and distinct. Ignoring it or railing against it will not make it disappear. Many Covenanters and their children died telling us to take this seriously, and all who have now read this can no longer claim ignorance of what God will require at the last day. All who ignore these just claims of God are without excuse.
Covenant breaking is a heinous sin.
Suffice it here to warn and indict covenant breakers in the words of our venerable ancestors.
August 20, Session 15, 1647 A declaration and Exhortation of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to their brethren of England
Yet we should betray our own sense and betray the truth if we should not resent so great a sin and danger as is the breach of a solemn Covenant, sworn with hands lifted up to the most high God: which breach however varnished over with some colourful and handsome pretexts, one whereof is the Liberty and Common Right of the free people of England, as once Saul brake a Covenant with the Gibeonites in his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah. Yet God could not then, and cannot now be mocked; Yea it is too apparent and undeniable, that among those who did take the Covenant of the three kingdoms, as there are many who have given themselves to a detestable indifferency or neutrality, so there is a generation which has made defection on the contrary part; persecuting as far as they could that true reformed religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline and government, which by the Covenant they ought to preserve against the common enemies; hindering and resisting the Reformation and Uniformity, which by the Covenant ought to be endeavored; preserving and tolerating those cursed things which by the Covenant ought to be extirpated (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland [16381649 inclusive], 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 333334).
O ye seed of Israel his servant, ye children of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations (1 Chronicles 16:13-15, AV).
f. Do the circumstantial details of the Solemn League and Covenant bind us?
Moving on to a different aspect of our present debate, I wish to allow Pastor Price to address Mr. Bacon's concerns relating to the circumstantial details of the Solemn League and Covenant. Since our dear pastor had already completed this task, I saw no reason to duplicate his work.
Mr. Bacon states:
The Reformation Presbyterian Church thus has maintained and continues to maintain that the Westminster documents which we have adopted were (see Westminster Bibliography Bacon) transacted upon the basis of the moral obligations of the Solemn League and Covenant. The moral and perpetual obligations of the Solemn League and Covenant are met and fulfilled insofar as a church commits itself to those just requirements of God's word. The human constitutions by which those commitments are met may vary from 1643 Scotland to 1997 North America. (Defense Departed).
Pastor Price responds,
Are there circumstantial details within these covenants that do not apply to the United States and Canada? Yes, there are (e.g. the United States has neither king nor parliament, nor national church; Canada has no national church; neither the United States nor Canada as nations acknowledge their obligation to the Solemn League and Covenant). But that which is circumstantial does not alter the moral obligations contained within these lawful covenants.
If there is any thing in these instruments [i.e. the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant GLP], of a circumstantial nature, we admit it may vary with the circumstances which produced it: but whatever is moral, will remain as permanent as these nations, and as unchangeable as the great Legislator [i.e. the Lord God Himself GLP] (Samuel B. Wylie, A Sermon on Covenanting, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 98).
Consider that when the covenanted nations of Israel and Judah were sent into captivity, they also were unable to keep certain circumstantial elements of the covenant made with their fathers (e.g. they had no king from among their brethren to reign over them, they had no national church, they were unable to keep the worship required in the Law as long as they were separated from the temple and Jerusalem), and yet God preserved a faithful remnant of covenant keepers even in the land of their captivity (e.g. Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, Mordecai, etc.). How did they keep the covenant of their fathers? They obeyed all of the terms of the covenant that were yet applicable to them while in captivity. All those in captivity were yet formally bound by the covenant of their fathers (despite the circumstantial differences that existed in captivity). Some (like Ezekiel, Daniel, etc). were covenant keepers while others were enduring the divine curses God had promised to bring upon them for breaking the covenant of their fathers ("And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant. . . I will scatter you among the heathen" Lev. 26:15,33). Observe that Ezekiel makes clear that Israel in captivity could not escape the formal bond of the covenant: "And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant" Ez. 20:37. Calvin's exposition of this verse further evidences that Israel (in captivity) was yet formally bound by the covenant of their fathers and not only morally bound to the law found in the covenant. For Calvin distinguishes between the covenant that formally bound Israel, but did not so bind the Gentiles. Whereas, if God were only speaking of the moral law contained in the covenant, that would equally bind the Gentiles as well.
Hence, the bond of the covenant means the constancy of his covenant, as far as he is concerned: and the simile is suitable, because God had bound his people to himself, on the condition that they should be always surrounded with these bonds. Hence, when they petulantly wandered like untamed beasts, yet God had hidden bonds of his covenant: that is, he persevered in his own covenant, so that he collected them all again to himself, not to rule over them as a father, but to punish their revolt more severely. Here is a tacit comparison between the Israelites and the Gentiles; for the Gentiles, through their never approaching nearer to God, wandered away in their licentiousness without restraint. But the state of the elect people was different, since the end of their covenant was this, that God held them bound to him, even if the whole world should escape from him (John Calvin, Commentaries On Ezekiel [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1979], p. 332).
Moreover, the faithful covenanters in Scotland, England, and Ireland (of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) could certainly have maintained that certain circumstances mentioned in the Solemn League and Covenant no longer applied to them, and therefore they were no longer formally bound to keep it (e.g. when Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector there was no king; or under Charles II and James II the Solemn League and Covenant was burned and made illegal; or after 1707 Scotland and England became one nation, etc.). But such evasions were always the proposed excuses on the part of covenant breakers as to why they were not formally obligated to own or to renew either the National Covenant or the Solemn League and Covenant. The faithful words of the Covenanted and Presbyterian General Assembly of the Church of Scotland should put all such evasions to flight.
Albeit the League and Covenant [i.e. The Solemn League and Covenant GLP] be despised by that prevailing party in England, and the Work of Uniformity, thorow [through GLP] the retardments and obstructions that have come in the way, be almost forgotten by these Kingdoms, yet the obligation of that Covenant is perpetual, and all the duties contained therein are constantly to be minded, and prosecute by every one of us and our posterity, according to their place and stations (The Acts Of The Generall Assemblies Of The Church Of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], 27 July 1649, Session 27, "A seasonable and necessary Warning and Declaration, concerning Present and Imminent dangers, and concerning duties relating thereto; from the Generall Assembly of this Kirk, unto all the Members thereof," SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 460, emphases added. The original spelling and capitalization have been retained).
(Pastor Price's response ends here, and again I would like to thank him for his faithful work and gracious assistance in this matter.)
Positive application of the Covenants to modern times and circumstances.
I readily admit that many circumstances have changed from 1643 to 1997. Many circumstances had also changed from 1643 to 1651. The unity of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was broken and the reigning power had fled the country. Control was in the hands of the conquering usurper Oliver Cromwell. Did this radical change in circumstances change the obligation of the Covenants? Did the intrinsic obligation to own and renew the Covenants suddenly fly away when Cromwell usurped power? Is it true that, "the human constitutions by which those commitments are met may vary from 1643 Scotland to 1997 North America," as Mr. Bacon argues?
If he means that we are to swear new covenants, entirely distinct from the Solemn League and Covenant, to meet our changing circumstances, then I emphatically say he greatly errs. If he means that we ought to faithfully renew the Solemn League and Covenant, recognizing its intrinsic moral obligation, while applying it to contemporary circumstances, then I wholeheartedly agree. This is what was done in Auchensaugh, Scotland (1712) and again in Philadelphia (October 8, 1880). The title of the Auchensaugh deed is instructive of its purpose and pertains directly to this question of accommodating the Solemn League and Covenant to our time and position respectively.
The title reads:
The Auchensaugh Renovation of the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant with the Acknowledgment of Sins and Engagement to Duties as they were Renewed at Auchensaugh, near Douglas, (compared with the editions of Paisley, 1820, and Belfast, 1835). Also the Renovation of these Public Federal Deeds, ordained at Philadelphia, October 8, 1880, by the Reformed Presbytery, with Accommodation of the Original Covenants, in both transactions, to their times and positions respectively.
From this it is readily observable that the Reformed Presbytery intended to accommodate the original Covenants to the time in which they lived. They faithfully recognized their intrinsic moral obligation by holding to the original promises, and they also explicitly testified against any group who unfaithfully attempted to imitate a covenant renewal while evading its moralperpetual obligation.
We adhere to the Renovation of the National Covenants at Auchensaugh, 1712, as comprising the same grand Scriptural principles with the original deeds, and preserving the identity of the moral person, which became more visible in 1761 by a Judicial Testimony. Reexhibited in 1858 and 1876. We repudiate the Renovation at Dervock, 1853, as being inadequate, defective, and unfaithful part of the document couched in abstract and evasive and equivocal language. Also we condemn and reject the Pittsburgh Bond [the present bond of the RPCNA GB] as ambiguous, self contradictory and treacherous "a snare on Mizpah" (The Reformed Presbytery of America, Act of Adherence to our Covenants, National and Solemn League; as adapted to the present time , emphases added).
Alexander Henderson agrees with the Reformed Presbytery (the socalled Steelites).
Do the socalled Steelites teach the same doctrine of covenant renewal as the men of the Second Reformation? In answer to this query, I think there is none better to turn to than the elder statesman of the Scottish commissioners sent to the Westminster Assembly. Surely Alexander Henderson would give us a true impression of what was intended in the renewing of the National Covenant as he preached on the occasion of swearing the Covenant at St. Andrews in early April of 1638.
In his sermon upon Psalm 110:3, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power, in the beauty of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of Thy youth,"
And indeed ye have just reason to be willing now.
Because it is God's cause ye have in hand, and it is no new cause to us. It is almost sixty years old; it is no less since this same Confession of Faith was first subscribed and sworn to [158081 GB]. And it has been still in use yearly to be subscribed and sworn to in some parts, among those in this land, to this day. And I think it would have been so in all parts of the land if men had dreamed of what was coming upon us. Whatever is added to it at this time, it is nothing but an interpretation of the former part; and if men will be willing to see the right, that they may see that there is nothing in the latter part but that which may be deduced from the first. And in the keeping of a Covenant we are not found to keep only these same words that were before, but we must renew it; and in the renewing thereof we must apply it to the present time when it is renewed, as we have done, renewed it against the present ills (Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses, 1638, p. 21, SWRB bound photocopy reprint, 1996, emphases added).
Henderson's doctrine of covenant renewal is exactly the same as the Reformed Presbytery and the PRCE. What is Mr. Bacon's doctrine of covenant renewal? He thinks the seventeenth century covenants should stay in the seventeen century, and the renewal of our father's covenants are not included in his doctrine or his practice. Rather, he seems to be intent in slandering all attempts to accomplish that godly end by hurling aspersion at those who promote it. Notice in the above sermon that Henderson says that the Covenant is now almost sixty years old, and yet it was still being subscribed in some parts of Scotland on a yearly basis. He urges his flock to renew it, by making application to the present time, that it might strengthen the church of Christ against the devil's wiles. I am very thankful for the Reformed Presbytery, who upheld the same doctrine which Henderson here teaches. If our nation were presently full of ministers like those found in the Reformed Presbytery, we would not so readily wallow in the confusion of the modern day malignants. Men such as Mr. Bacon will have us believe that the socalled "Steelites" taught something different than the great reformers of the Second Reformation, and it is abundantly evident that such a sentiment is grossly inaccurate. Now, dear reader, you have hard evidence to prove who is telling the truth. Mr. Bacon's portrayal that we have no intention of accommodating these covenants to meet our present circumstances is now exposed. The PRCE presently owns both bonds, and is currently working on a Covenant Renewal to accommodate and adapt these original covenants to our time and circumstances respectively. We pray that God will send faithful labourers to strengthen our hands in this complex and difficult task. Moreover, those, like Mr. Bacon, the RPCNA (the pretended Covenanters) or most other socalled Reformed Presbyterians, who wish to avoid or adulterate the intrinsic obligation of these faithful bonds will of course be welcome only let them first repent and make proper restitution for their past covenant breaking, perjury and present slander against the true Covenanted remnant.
Mr. Bacon wishes us to believe that he is a staunch advocate of public covenanting when he says:
The issue between the Steelites and the rest of the body of Christ is not whether we today should practice the ordinance of public covenanting. Not only do the Steelites believe public covenanting is for our present day, so too does the RPC and the RPCNA. In reality every church that practices baptism believes in public covenanting. It is not so clear and central with others of God's people, but when we baptize we are covenanting publicly in an engagement to be the Lord's (Defense Departed).
David Steele comments:
The only plausible objection offered by opponents to the doctrine and practice of public social covenanting is taken from the assumption, that it is superceded by the sacraments, especially the Lord's Supper. The assumption has never been proved, and is utterly groundless, as will at once appear to any unbiased mind, by considering that God instituted all three forms of taking hold of his covenant. If it be so that baptism and the Lord's Supper are substantially the same seals of the covenant as circumcision and the passover; then the consequence is inevitable, that as the whole people of Israel were taken and engaged to God at Sinai, he judged the two preceding forms incomplete. And since the privileges of God's covenant people are enlarged not abridged, under the New Testament dispensation, and that public covenanting was a matter of frequent prediction and promise under the Old dispensation; it follows that this instrumentality is to be continued and exemplified (The Two Witnesses, 1859, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 27)
It is true that our baptismal vow includes the solemn duty of public covenanting, and I would never want to downplay its importance or obligation. The question is whether or not Mr. Bacon's practice of public covenanting in baptism exonerates him from the further duty of renewing the other covenants he is already formally bound to uphold. Alexander Henderson, in the above cited sermon (preached at the renewal of the National Covenant), answers this question:
Now is there any of you but ye are obliged to be holy? Ye say that ye are the people of the Lord. If so be, then ye must have your inward man purged of sin, and ye must stand at the stave's end against the corruption of the time, and ye must devote yourselves only to serve and honor God. And your Covenant, that ye are to swear to this day obliges you to this; and it requires nothing of you but that which ye are bound to perform. And therefore, seeing this is required of you, purge yourselves within, flee the corruptions at the same time, eschew the society of those whom you see to be corrupt, and devote yourselves only to the Lord. Yet this is not that we would oblige you to perform everything punctually that the Lord requires of you; there is none who can do that, but promise to the Lord to do so, tell him that ye have a desire to do so, and say to him, Lord, I shall earnestly endeavour to do as far as I can. And, indeed there is no more in our covenant but this, that we shall endeavour to keep ourselves within the bounds of our Christian liberty; and albeit, none of you would swear to this, ye are bound to it [the National Covenant GB] by your baptism. And therefore, think not that we are precisians (or these who have set down this Covenant), seeing all of you are bound to do it (Alexander Henderson, Sermons, Prayers, and Pulpit Addresses, 1638, p. 23, SWRB bound photocopy reprint, 1996, emphases added).
Henderson declares that by baptism we are already bound to the obligation of the Covenant. To him these ideas were joined together like husband and wife rejoicing side by side in the beauty of holiness (1 Chron. 16:29). The one entering in by the washing of regeneration (Tit 3:5, Heb 10:22) and the other endeavoring righteousness and peace with the solemnity of a promise (Rom. 4:13, 2 Pet. 3:13). He argues that neglecting to swear to that to which they were already bound would be contradictory and sinful. To neglect the one while enjoying the other would mar the beauty of both. Each proclaim the glory of God and together they promote unity of purpose and desire for holiness.
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Psalms 85:10, AV).
Whereas Henderson would marry these two ideas together, Mr. Bacon would counsel separation. The covenant made at baptism does not allow us to evade our duty as Mr. Bacon seems to imply; rather our baptismal covenant (in a covenanted land) binds us to further uphold our other lawful Covenant obligations laid upon us by our faithful forefathers (in the same manner as parents obligate their children in baptism). I acknowledge that Mr. Bacon believes that public covenanting is for the present day. The problem is that he does not recognize his entire Covenant obligation, as taught by Henderson in the above sermon. Like Mr. Bacon, those to whom Henderson spoke were already covenanted by virtue of their baptismal vows, but Henderson evidently believed that there existed an additional obligation to renew this sixty year old promise. According to Mr. Bacon's doctrine, Henderson should have been content to let the National Covenant die a natural death due to the fact that he was already promoting social covenanting through baptismal vows. According to Mr. Bacon, Henderson is making this sort of emphasis upon a covenant renewal too "clear and central" in his system of doctrine. Does the taking of a baptismal vow alter the necessity of renewing other previously binding covenants which are agreeable to the Word of God? Not according to Henderson. On the other hand, Mr. Bacon is again mixing his apples and oranges leading others astray by teaching halftruths. His alleged advocation for public covenanting falls far short of the faithful example set by the ministers of the Second Reformation. In view of this clear evidence, I cannot see how Mr. Bacon will ever again dare say that he adheres to the doctrine taught and practiced by the Second Reformation Scots regarding covenanting or covenant renewals. It is one thing to say that, "I believe in public covenanting," and quite another to understand the faithful application of the doctrine. Sadly, Mr. Bacon appears to properly understand neither, and it is grievous that he would pass on such ignorance to others. He needs to publicly repent of what he has written. Under the pretence of upholding public covenanting he has in reality upheld covenantbreaking, and counselled others to follow him in his stiffnecked violation of the third commandment.
Now be ye not stiffnecked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the LORD, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever: and serve the LORD your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you (2 Chronicles 30:8, AV).
h. The negative sanction of the Covenants Withdrawal, censure and separation.
Has the PRCE "unchurched" all who will not take the covenant as Mr. Bacon falsely claims?
On his church's web page, under the heading of the Necessity of the Covenants, Mr. Bacon represents the PRCE as having "unchurched" all who do not adopt the Solemn League and Covenant. As seems to be his practice when slandering others, Mr. Bacon fails to give us a precise definition of the term "unchurched". His sinful and unscholarly lack of precision leaves us wondering (again!) what he is attempting to say. Does he mean "unchurched" as to being or "unchurched" as to wellbeing? If, in the future, Mr. Bacon would provide us with a clear definition of what he means by this term perhaps it could then be properly dealt with. As it stands, his present charge is unqualified, undefined, and therefore meaningless. As such, it only serves to further demonstrate his readiness to uncharitably and imprecisely rail at others.
Though it is not presently possible to determine the exact nature of Mr. Bacon's charge, I do think it is wise to briefly discus dissociation and separation as they pertain to our solemn covenants.
We follow the practice of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (16381649) and censure (bar from the Lord's Supper), or withdraw, from all those who will not own their Covenant obligations. Though withdrawal or censure (depending upon the circumstance) removes one from a close and intimate communion with the PRCE, it does not mean that those who are thus dealt with are no longer deemed Christians. As it pertains to the Covenants it simply means that those who are thus censured, or withdrawn from, are considered unfaithful Christians or churches who need to repent of covenant breaking and perjury.
Consider the many Acts of the General Assembly of Scotland from 1638 to 1649 inclusive, (subordinate and agreeable to God's Word) which confirm us in our actions of withdrawing from, or censuring all, who will not take, own and adopt their binding Covenant obligations in this nation.
Covenant Subscription is a Term of Communion for all members of Church and State (in a Covenanted nation) An examination of the Acts of The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (16381649 inclusive).
1. Act Ordaining the subscription of the Confession of Faith and the Covenant (1639).
We by our Act and Constitution ecclesiastical do approve the foresaid Covenant in all the heads and clauses thereof and ordains of new, under all ecclesiastical censure, that the masters of universities, colleges, and schools, all scholars at the passing of their degrees, all persons suspect of papistry or any other errors; and finally all the members of this Kirk and Kingdom, subscribe the same (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 87, emphases added).
2. August 8, Session 6, 1643.
The General Assembly considering the good and pious advice of the commissioners of the last Assembly, upon the 22 of September, 1642 recommending to presbyteries, to have copies of the Covenant to be subscribed by every Minister at his admission, doth therefore ratify and approve the same. And further ordains that the Covenant be reprinted, with this ordinance prefixed thereto, and that every Synod, Presbytery and Parish, have one of them bound in quarto, with some blank paper, whereupon every person may be obliged to subscribe: And that the Covenants of the Synod and Presbytery be keeped by their Moderator respective, of Universities by their principals, of Parishes by their Ministers, with all carefulness. And that particular account of obedience to this Act, be required hereafter in all visitations of Parishes, Universities, and Presbyteries, and all trials of Presbyteries and Synod books.
The General Assembly considering that the Act of the Assembly at Edinburgh 1639. August 30. enjoining all persons to subscribe the Covenant, under all Ecclesiastical censure, hath not been obeyed: Therefore ordains all Ministers to make intimation of the said Act in their Kirks, and thereafter to proceed with the censures of the Kirk against such as shall refuse to subscribe the Covenant. And that exact account be taken of every Ministers diligence herein by their Presbyteries and Synods, as they will answer to the General Assembly (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 162 emphases added).
3. August 5, Session 10, 1640.
The Assembly ordains, that if any Expectant [minister GB] shall refuse to subscribe the Covenant, he shall be declared incapable of Pedagogy, teaching in a school, reading at a Kirk, preaching within a presbytery, and shall not have liberty of residing within a Burgh, university or College: and if they continue obstinate to be processed (Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB, 1997, p. 94).
4. Aug 1, Session 5, 1640.
The Assembly ordains, that such as have subscribed the Covenant and speaks against the same, if he be a Minister, shall be deprived: And if he continue so, being deprived, shall be excommunicate: And if he be any other man, shall be dealt with as perjured and satisfy publicly for his perjury (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 93, emphases added).
5. Act Against Secret Disaffecters of the Covenant (1644).
The General Assembly understanding that diverse persons disaffected to the National Covenant of this Kirk, and to the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms, do escape their just censure, either by private and inconstant abode in any one congregation, or by secret conveyance of their malignant speeches and practises; Therefore ordains all ministers to take notice when any such person shall come into their parishes, and so soon as they shall know the same, that without delay they cause them to appear before the Presbyteries within which their parish lies.... And the assembly ordains the said commissioners not only to proceed to trial and censure of such disaffected persons but also to take a special account of the diligence of the Ministers, Elders, and Presbyteries herein respective (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 220, 221, emphases added).
6. August 20, Session 15, 1647.
And if by the declaration of both kingdoms [Scotland and England GB] joined in arms, Anno 1643, such as would not take the Covenant were declared to be public enemies to their Religion and Country and that they be censured and punished as professed adversaries and malignant (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 335, emphases added).
7. Act for Taking the Covenant at the first receiving of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper
The General Assembly according to former recommendations, Doth ordain that all young students take the Covenant at their first entry into colleges; and that hereafter all persons whatsoever take the Covenant at their first receiving of the Lords Supper: Requiring hereby Provincial Assemblies, Presbyteries and Universities to be careful that this Act be observed, an account thereof taken in the visitation of Universities and particular Kirks, and in the trial of Presbyteries (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB, 1997, p. 422, emphases added).
8. That all students of Philosophy at their first entry and at their lawreation, be holden to subscribe the League and Covenant and be urged thereto, and all other persons as they come to age and discretion before their first receiving the Sacrament of the Lords Supper (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], SWRB reprint, 1997, p.368, emphases added).
Let us summarize what the above cited Acts are saying.
First, observe who were obliged to subscribe the covenants: "all the members of this Kirk and Kingdom, subscribe;" "every person may be obliged to subscribe;" "enjoining all persons to subscribe the Covenant, under all Ecclesiastical censure."
Second, what happened to all who refused to subscribe?
According to these Acts those who refused to subscribe the Covenants were to be censured. Mr. Bacon's noting of an alleged exception (Zachary Boyd) has been proven false though even if his scholarship was accurate it would only serve to prove that the Ministers of Scotland were being inconsistent and unfaithful to their stated Acts of General Assembly. The reader is asked to look again at the language used therein, and to evaluate whether Mr. Bacon has faithfully represented the position of these faithful Covenanters.
The Scottish General Assembly states that, "such as would not take the Covenant were declared to be public enemies to their Religion and Country and that they be censured and punished as professed adversaries and malignant;" furthermore the officers of the Kirk were instructed to "proceed with the censures of the Kirk against such as shall refuse to subscribe the Covenant."
Third, what happened to those who broke Covenant after subscribing them?
Those who did subscribe and spoke against the covenant suffered the same censure and were additionally cited for perjury. As I have demonstrated, once the distinct and superadded obligation derived from the voluntary selfengagement takes effect, the charge of perjury and covenant breaking are both appropriate and just.
On Aug 1, Session 5, 1640, the General Assembly said "that such as have subscribed the Covenant and speak against the same, if he be a Minister, shall be deprived: And if he continue so, being deprived, shall be excommunicate: And if he be any other man, shall be dealt with as perjured and satisfy publicly for his perjury."
George Gillespie, Scottish Commissioner to the Westminster Assembly George Gillespie states:
Those that refuse the covenant, reproach it, or rail against it, ought to be looked at as enemies to it and dealt with accordingly.... Refusers of the covenant and railers against it are justly censured. (George Gillespie, Miscellany Questions, Works,Vol. 2, 1846, reprinted 1991 by Still Waters Revival Books, p. 81, emphases added).
Thus, it is clear that all were obliged to take the Covenants and those who refused or broke their vows were to be excommunicated.
Next, we must ask ourselves: How long did the General Assembly intend these Acts to remain in effect. 1 year? 10 years? or perpetually? Obviously, these Acts were to be enforced as long as the Covenant to which they refer remains in force. The PRCE recognizes the faithful court of our ancestors and realizes that the everlasting covenant sworn on our behalf still applies to the churches of Canada and the United States (also many other lands all his Majesty's dominions at the time the Covenants were sworn). Consequently, as Presbyterians, we cannot contradict the ruling of a faithful General Assembly when it is agreeable to the Word of God. Our withdrawing from, admonishing, and censuring, those who are guilty of breaking covenant, is an example of our willingness to uphold their just and righteous rulings.
And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:14,15, AV).
The Church of Scotland clearly censured those who would not subscribe the Covenants. This is further evidenced by the following excerpt.
And decerns and declares all and sundry, who either gainsay the word of the evangel received and approved as the heads of the Confession of Faith, professed in Parliament in the year of God 1560, specified also in the first Parliament of King James VI., and ratified in this present Parliament, more particularly do express; or that refuse the administration of the holy sacraments, as they were then ministrated; to be no members of the said kirk within this realm, and true religion presently professed, so long as they keep themselves so divided from the society of Christ's body. And the subsequent Act 69, Parl. 6 of King James VI. declares, that there is no other face of kirk, nor other face of religion, than was presently at that time, by the favour of God, established within this realm (The National Covenant, emphases added).
When it is said that, "all and sundry, who either gainsay the word of the evangel received and approved as the heads of the Confession of Faith" are to be accounted, "no members of the said kirk within this realm, and true religion presently professed, so long as they keep themselves so divided from the society of Christ's body," they are saying precisely the same thing as the PRCE. Those who will not covenant and confess the truth are to be barred from the sacraments and familiar fellowship. Is that the practice of the pretended presbytery of the RPC? Do they maintain that anybody who speaks or acts against the Confession or Covenants are "no members of the said kirk within this realm"? No, on the contrary, they profess to hold communion and maintain familiar fellowship with a broad spectrum of Christians who openly speak and act against both. This is evidenced by the fact (which they do not deny) that they do not require their members to agree not to speak and act contrary to their church standards prior to partaking of the Lord's Supper, rather such requirements are only required of their officers. Is it not abundantly evident that they do not uphold the principles of the Second Reformation?
Furthermore, Mr.Bacon's practice is contrary to the example set by the First Reformation under the godly influence of John Calvin in Geneva. As Reg Barrow has accurately stated in his article entitled Calvin, Covenanting and Close Communion, "it is a well documented fact that the Genevan Presbytery [Company of Pastors GB], in 1536, sought to excommunicate anyone who would not swear an oath to uphold the Reformed doctrine as it was set forth in their Confession of Faith."
T. H. L. Parker writes,
Since the evangelical faith had only recently been preached in the city, and there were still many Romanists, the ministers also urged excommunication on the grounds of failure to confess the faith. The Confession of faith, which all the citizens and inhabitants of Geneva... must promise to keep and to hold had been presented to the Council on 10 November 1536. Let the members of the Council be the first to subscribe and then the citizens, in order to recognize those in harmony with the Gospel and those loving rather to be of the kingdom of the pope than of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Those who would not subscribe were to be excommunicated (John Calvin: A Biography, Westminster Press, 1975, p. 63, emphases added).
Additionally, the company of Pastors in Geneva took this one step further (enacting negative civil sanctions like those of the covenanted Reformations found in the Old Testament under Josiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Asa, and Hezekiah) by commanding those who would not swear to the reformation to leave the city:
12 November 1537. It was reported that yesterday the people who had not yet made their oath to the reformation were asked to do so, street by street; whilst many came, many others did not do so. No one came from the German quarter. It was decided that they should be commanded to leave the city if they did not wish to swear to the reformation (Johnston, Pamela, and Bob Scribner. 1993. The Reformation in Germany and Switzerland, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 138, emphases added).
(See Reg Barrow's, Calvin, Covenanting and Close Communion, pp. 68, also the 5th letter in his response to Doug Wilson in his book entitled, Saul in the Cave of Adullam).
These complete articles are free on SWRB's web page at:
http://www.swrb.com/ (follow the free books link)
The faithful contendings of the "Protesters" exemplifying their steadfast application of the biblical principles regarding withdrawal and separation from corrupt individuals and pretended assemblies.
Another prime example of Reformation principles, in speaking plainly and acting consistently against unfaithful churches and ministers, was manifested by the faithful Protesters of the General Assembly of Scotland in 1651. At this time, an unfaithful majority faction of the General Assembly (called the Resolutioner party) openly broke their covenant vows and initiated a dispute that quickly divided them from the faithful minority (the Protesters). These compromisers under pressure from the King, approved the placement of men (called malignants for their ungodly character) in the army and places of public trust contrary to the covenants and previous Acts of General Assembly. Thus, by evident perjury, these Resolutioners made themselves coconspirators and accessories to the crimes that followed the sad division of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Matthew Hutchison explains:
The former party [the resolutioners GB] had among them men of high character and worth, some of whom afterwards regretted the position they had taken in this controversy. They were more tolerant in the application of their principles; among them the Second Charles found afterwards many of his willing tools, and they constituted the bulk of those who accepted the Indulgences and Toleration [later compromises GB] (M. Hutchison, The Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland, 1893, SWRB, 1997, p. 21).
The compromise of the Resolutioner party within the General Assembly of Scotland led to a division that remains unhealed, and a schism that effectively set aside the original constitution of the Church of Scotland. The seriousness of this schism can be observed in the following excerpts. Note the actions of faithful Protester ministers as they dealt with the unfaithful ministers of the Resolutioner faction. Mr. Samuel Rutherford [Protester GB] would not serve the Lord's Supper with Pastor's Blair and Wood [Resolutioners GB] though they had most other points of faith in common.
In the time of the difference between the Resolutioners and Protesters, at a Communion at St. Andrews, he [Samuel Rutherford GB] ran to a sad height and refused to serve a table with Messrs. Blair and Wood, after all the entreaty they could make. At length Mr. Blair was forced to serve it himself (Robert Gilmour, Samuel Rutherford, A Study, Biographical and somewhat Critical, in the History of the Scottish Covenant, 1904, SWRB reprint, 1996, p. 201, emphases added).
Obviously, I do not concur with the assessment of Robert Gilmour, that Mr. Rutherford, "ran to a sad height," when he refused to serve the Lord's Supper with Robert Blair, or James Wood. Rather I believe that Mr. Rutherford was acting consistently with the doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith in refusing to serve the Lord's Supper with obstinately scandalous (perjured) ministers. Did Rutherford sin by refusing communion with perjured but otherwise godly men? No, instead he acted faithfully and consistently in refusing to serve the Lord's Supper with the scandalous. Was he saying these men were no longer Christians? No, he was attempting to correct and restore the brethren he dearly loved by testifying against their sin and not complying with their compromise. And if Rutherford (who sought to apply faithfully the biblical obligations declared in the Solemn League and Covenant) was unable to serve the Lord's Supper "with" those who have scandalously compromised their covenant obligations, much more would he refrain from serving the Lord's Supper "to" those known to be guilty of such sins.
Rutherford aptly states:
Because the Churches take not care, that Ministers be savoury and gracious; from Steermen all Apostasie and rottenness begin. O if the Lord would arise and purge his House in Scotland! As for Churchmembers, they ought to be holy; and though all baptized be actu primo members, yet such as remain habitually ignorant after admonition, are to be cast out, and though they be not cast out certainly, as paralytick or rottened members cannot discharge the functions of life: So those that are scandalous, ignorant, malignant, unsound in faith, lose their rights of Suffrages in election of Officers, and are to be debarred from the Seals. Nor can we defend our sinful practise in this: it were our wisdom to repent of our taking in the Malignant party, who shed the blood of the people of God, and obstructed the work of God, into places of Trust in the Church State, and the Army, contrary to our Covenants, they continuing still Enemies. (Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the Survey of the Summe of Church Discipline, 1658, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 373, emphases added).
Not only would consistent Protesters not administer the Lord's Supper "with" or "to" the Resolutioners, but applying their doctrine uniformly they called the Resolutioner Assemblies "pretended" and would not compear before their courts. The Records of the Church of Scotland, reports the following events which depict their godly and constant principles.
At this session [of General Assembly GB], Mr. Rutherford gave in a protestation against the lawfulness of the Assembly, containing the reasons thereof in the name of the Kirk, subscribed with 22 hands, and desired it might be read; but it was delayed to be read, and all that subscribed the remonstrance, with some others, went away (July 17, 1651, Session 6, Records of the Kirk of Scotland, SWRB, 1997, p. 628, emphases added).
Did the Protesters sin when they walked out of the meeting of the Scottish General Assembly (1651)? Were they saying that the Resolutioner churches were not Christian churches? No, they simply would not recognize the pretended authority of the Resolutioners compromised majority.
Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment (Exodus 23:2, AV).
How does Mr. Bacon explain the actions of these Protesters? Does he accuse them of being rash and uncharitable for walking out of the General Assembly? How does he explain Rutherford not serving communion with pastors Blair and Wood? To date, Mr. Bacon's politically correct commentary upon this matter seems decidedly undecided, and I could hardly believe my eyes when I read in his Defense Departed that, "The paper on dissociation goes on to speak of the Protester and Resolutioner split in the church of Scotland as though it were germane to our nation and time." Sadly for Mr. Bacon and his indefensible position, the history of the Second Reformation is entirely applicable to our nation and time and he is a living testimony that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set (Proverbs 22:28, AV).
The faithful warriors of the First and Second Reformation did not fail in their duty toward those who acted or spoke against their Confessions and Covenants. They admonished, withdrew from, and even excommunicated those compromised brethren who would not repent of their sinful deeds. The fact that these compromisers were otherwise godly Reformed Presbyterians did not stop them from making a clear testimony against them. They would not recognize their pretended courts and they openly bore witness against their schismatic schemes. We simply seek to follow their godly example while encouraging others to do the same.
Though thou, Israel, play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend; and come not ye unto Gilgal, neither go ye up to Bethaven, nor swear, The LORD liveth. For Israel slideth back as a backsliding heifer: now the LORD will feed them as a lamb in a large place (Hosea 4:15,16, AV).
Accordingly, churches such as the Reformation Presbyterian Church who obstinately retain their unscriptural doctrine and practice must be withdrawn from and testified against by admonition and suspension from the Lord's Table. Their pretended courts must not be recognized as anything other than schismatic attempts to destroy the unity of Christ's church. They must be avoided (not attended!). All the evidence points to the conclusion that they have receded from the truth and apostatized into a backsliding state of spiritual adultery. Although they are yet considered true Churches of Christ (as to being), they must sadly be viewed as unfaithful churches (as to wellbeing). Like Israel of old, such unfaithful churches have brought their lovers (false doctrine, unauthorized worship, tyrannical government, and undisciplined toleration) into the presence of their heavenly husband.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thy filthiness was poured out, and thy nakedness discovered through thy whoredoms with thy lovers, and with all the idols of thy abominations, and by the blood of thy children, which thou didst give unto them; Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure, and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated; I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness (Ezekiel 16:36,37, AV).
John Calvin comments:
That there is an universal Church, that there has been, from the beginning of the world, and will be even to the end, we all acknowledge. The appearance by which it may be recognized is the question. We place it in the Word of God, or, (if any one would so put it,) since Christ is her head, we maintain that, as a man is recognized by his face, so she is to be beheld in Christ: as it is written, "Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together," (Matth. xxiv. 28.) Again, "There will be one sheepfold, and one Shepherd," (John x. 16.) But as the pure preaching of the gospel is not always exhibited, neither is the face of Christ always conspicuous, (1 Cor. xi. 19). Thence we infer that the Church is not always discernible by the eyes of men, as the example of many ages testify. For in the time of the prophets, the multitude of the wicked so prevailed, that the true Church was oppressed; so also in the time of Christ, we see that the little flock of God was hidden from men, while the ungodly usurped to themselves the name of Church. But what will those, who have eyes so clear that they boast the Church is always visible to them, make of Elijah, who thought the he alone remained of the Church? (1 Kings xix. 10.) In this, indeed, he was mistaken, but it is a proof that the Church of God may be equally concealed from us, especially since we know, from the prophecy of Paul, that defection was predicted, (2 Thess. ii. 3.) Let us hold, then, that the Church is seen where Christ appears, and where his word is heard; as it is written, "My sheep hear my voice," (John x. 27;) but that at the instant when the true doctrine was buried, the Church vanished from the eyes of men. This Church, we acknowledge with Paul, to be the pillar and ground of the truth, (1 Tim. iii.,) because she is the guardian of sound doctrine, and by her ministry propagates it to posterity, that it may not perish from the world. For, seeing she is the spouse of Christ, it is meet that she be subject to him. And, as Paul declares, (Eph. v. 24; 2 Cor. xi. 2,3) her chastity consists in not being led away from the simplicity of Christ. She errs not, because she follows the truth of God for her rule; but if she recedes from this truth, she ceases to be a spouse, and becomes an adulteress (Articles agreed upon by The Faculty of Sacred Theology of Paris, in Reference to Matters of Faith at Present Controverted with The Antidote, Calvin's Selected Works, Vol. 1, Tracts, Part 1, pp. 102103, reprinted in 1983 by Baker Book House and in 1997 by SWRB).
And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger (Proverbs 5:20, AV)?
They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 3:1, AV).
To properly understand the Reformers' doctrine of dissociation and separation we must distinguish between the "settled" and "broken" state of the church.
To properly understand the Covenanter position regarding dissociation and separation from pretended authorities, the reader must become familiar with another important distinction, viz., the settled vs. the broken state of the church. The nation of Scotland (16381649) possessed both a truly constituted General Assembly, and the civil establishment of the true Reformed religion, thereby enabling the church to enjoy the blessed privilege of being "settled" in the land. Our case in 1997 is vastly different. We have no National Presbyterian General Assembly, nor do we possess the civil establishment of the one true Reformed religion. Among the Reformers, such a disorganized state of affairs was referred to as the "broken state" of the church. One of the most serious errors of Mr. Bacon (and those like him), and one of the main reasons he so frequently misunderstands the Reformers' doctrine of dissociation and separation is his failure to grasp this important distinction. Mr. Bacon is fond of quoting men like Samuel Rutherford, James Durham, and George Gillespie, who wrote extensively regarding true principles of separation. What he fails to take into account is that they were applying their principles to a time when the church was nationally established and bound by faithful reformed covenants. Those who fail to make this distinction are constantly taking the scriptural principles of separation pertaining to a national church (settled) and applying these principles to the church in her "broken" and "unsettled" state. The results are disastrous: books are written like Mr. Bacon's, The Visible Church in the Outer Darkness (a book filled with both Popish error and Independent confusion). In his public misrepresentation of Kevin Reed, Mr. Bacon practically ignored the necessary distinctions of the Reformers (being vs. wellbeing, settled vs. broken state), and consequently led his readers to believe something far different than the doctrine they actually taught. Through his false teaching, sincere children of God are led to believe that separation from a Christian church, even in a time of great apostasy (broken state), should be exceedingly rare. Citing men (like John MacPherson, James Wood, and Thomas Boston) who did not stand upon the biblical principles of covenanted Protesters (like Samuel Rutherford, George and Patrick Gillespie, James Guthrie, Robert McWard, John Brown of Wamphray, Richard Cameron, Donald Cargill and James Renwick), Mr. Bacon has confused his readers into confounding the faithful teaching of the Second Reformation with the dissimulation of those who were attempting to justify their backsliding and compromise. He must be called to account for his error (see Appendix G). Dear reader, take the time to carefully read the following quotations. Those who understand what is being said will no longer be ensnared by Mr. Bacon's false interpretation of the Reformers.
Faithful martyr of God, James Renwick, explains the importance of this crucial distinction:
We distinguish between a Church in a Reformed and settled state and confirmed with the constitutions of General Assemblies and the civil sanctions of Parliament; and a church in a broken and disturbed state. In the former, abuses and disorders can be orderly redressed and removed by church judicatories, but not so in the latter. Wherefore the most lawful, expedient and conduceable mean, for maintaining the attained unto Reformation, is to be followed in the time of such confusions and disturbances, and that is, (as we think) abstraction and withdrawing from such disorders in ministers which we cannot get otherways rectified (James Renwick, An Informatory Vindication, 1687, SWRB reprint, 1997, p. 61, emphases added)
We distinguish between a Reformed Church enjoying her privileges and judicatories and a Reformed church denuded of her privileges and deprived of her judicatories. In the former, people are to address themselves unto Church judicatories and not to withdraw from their ministers (especially for ordinary scandals); But in the latter, when ministers are really scandalous (though not juridically declared so) and duly censurable according to the Word of God, and their own church's constitutions and censures cannot be inflicted through the want of church judicatories, and yet they still persist in their offensive courses, people may do what is competent to them and testify their sense of the justness of the censure to be inflicted, by withdrawing from such ministers even without the Presbyterial sentence (James Renwick, An Informatory Vindication, 1687, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 61, 62, emphases added).
We hold, that Schism, or disowning and rejecting of, or groundless and unwarrantable separating from, true and faithful ministers, to be a very heinous, hateful, and hurtful sin; yet this doth not hinder, but that it may be duty, in a broken state of the Church, to withdraw from Ministers chargeable with defection. For, seeing this Church hath attained to such a high degree of Reformation; and seeing, by Solemn Covenants to the Almighty, we have bound ourselves to maintain and defend the same; Seeing by reason of the enemy's subtilty and cruelty, and the fainting, falling and failing of Ministers, so many dreadful defections have been introduced, embraced, and countenanced; Seeing, in these times of distempering confusions, we are now deprived of the remedy of settled Judicatories, where unto we might recur for rectifying of disorders; And seeing we are bound to witness against these Complying and backsliding Courses, whereby the wrath of God is so much kindled against the Land: Therefore we hold it as our duty, that when a backsliding or defection is embraced, avowed, and obstinately defended, in such things as have been Reformed, either expressly or equivalently, especially being witnessed against doctrinally, and further confirmed by other testimonies; We judge it lawful, reasonable, and necessary; in a declining, backsliding, and troubled state of the Church, to leave that part of the Church which hath made such defection, whether Ministers or Professors, as to a joint concurrence in carrying on the public work (according as it is given in Command to Jeremiah 15:19, let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them) and to adhere unto the other part of the Church, Ministers and Professors, whether more or fewer, who are standing steadfastly to the Defense of the Reformation, witnessing against others who have turned aside and declined therefrom; until the defections of the backsliding party be confessed, mourned over and forsaken: This is no separation from the Church of Scotland, but only a departing and going forth from her sins, backslidings, and defections, as we are commanded by the Lord (James Renwick, An Informatory Vindication, 1687, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 36, 37, emphases added).
Finally, I quote Alexander Shields who wholeheartedly concurs with Renwick:
In a constitute and settled case of the church, enjoying her privileges and judicatories, corruptions may be forborne, and the offended are not to withdraw, before recourse to the judicatories for an orderly redress; but in a broken and disturbed state, when there is no access to these courts of Christ; then people, though they must not usurp a power of judicial censuring these corruptions, yet they may claim and exercise a discretive power over their own practice; and by their withdrawing from such ministers as are guilty of them, signify their sense of the moral equity of these censures that have been legally enacted against these and the equivalent corruptions, and when they should be legally inflicted. As we do upon this ground withdraw from the prelatic curates, and likewise from some of our covenanted brethren, upon the account of their being chargeable with such corruptions and defections from our reformation, as we cannot but show our dislike of (Alexander Shields, A Hind Let Loose, 1797 edition, SWRB bound photocopy, 1996, p. 266, emphases added).
Dear reader, do you see the importance of these distinctions? Do you see the error that can arise from taking the just rules of separation and applying them without distinction? In the settled state of the church, where rightly constituted and established judicatories allow for the orderly redress of abuses, separation should be exceedingly rare (like Rutherford, Durham, and Gillespie teach). However, in our broken state of the church, while we have no recourse to nationally established judicatories (only to independent rival judicatories), we are left to claim and exercise a discretive power over our own practice as Rutherford and the Protesters practiced when the corrupt Resolutioner majority "broke" the Church of Scotland. (see Appendix G). We testify against the corruptions of our nation's churches and ministers, by barring them from our communion table, writing against their errors and praying for their reformation. In this broken state of the church their is no difference between how we are to treat unfaithful churches and unfaithful individuals. If God has commanded us to withdraw from and avoid disorderly and obstinate brethren, how can we deduce that we are to tolerate disorderly and obstinate churches? If the church is so divided that gross sin and error is protected by false judicatories, then how are the children of God to obtain a lawful hearing for their grievances? Should they submit themselves to those who frame mischief by abusing their pretended authority? When the church is so broken and disorganized that disorderly and obstinate churches are going from bad to worse, the answer is not to plead for toleration. Such toleration proclaims a liberty to sin and promises ecclesiastical protection for unfaithfulness. When the hands of the wicked are strengthened and the children of God are encouraged to tolerate evil, true religion is destroyed and reformation is hindered. Thus, Scripture teaches that true religion ought never to require toleration and false religion ought never to be tolerated. Those who rightly understand the distinction between the broken and settled state of the church know that dissociation and separation are the only true means of reformation when the church has divided into rival judicatories and receded from the truth. Those who follow Mr. Bacon's impropriety will be found propping up the hands of backsliders while condemning those who plead for true reformation.
Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law? They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. But the LORD is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge (Psalms 94:2022, AV).
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people (Deuteronomy 13:69, AV).
No doubt Mr. Bacon thinks the Reformation Presbyterian Church to be a faithful judicatory, and perhaps he would also include such rival and contradictory judicatories as the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (pretended covenanters) or the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. These churches, ministers and brethren have all broken covenant with God and we can no more own their judicatories than we can own the judicatory of the Church of Rome. While these brethren are more faithful than any Romish communion, their defection and backsliding are of such a scandalous nature that we can in no way tolerate it for the sake of unity. For us to pass over something as serious as perjury and covenant breaking would be for us to join hands in silent compliance with those things which we have sworn in our Covenants to extirpate and uproot. Unless our brethren, whom we love, humble themselves and repent, we see no other option than to continue to pray for their restoration while testifying against their defection.
And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turnaside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts (Malachi 3:5, AV, emphases added).
I close this section with a faithful warning from the General Assembly of Scotland (August 6, 1649) and would ask the reader to apply their words to the ministers and professing Christians across Canada and the United States, even unto all the covenanted lands who remain bound by the covenants of their forefathers.
It is no small grief to us that the Gospel and Government of Jesus Christ are so despised in the land that faithful preachers are persecuted and cried down, that toleration is established by law and maintained by military power and that the Covenant is abolished and buried in oblivion. All which proceedings cannot but be looked upon as directly contrary to the Oath of God lying upon us and therefore we cannot eschew his wrath when he shall come in judgment to be a swift witness against those who falsely swear against His name (The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, [16381649 inclusive], 1682, SWRB reprint, 1997, pp. 472, 473).