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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Covenanters

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the name given primarily to that body of Presbyterians in Scotland who objected to the Revolution settlement in Church and State, and desired to see in full force that kind of civil and ecclesiastical polity that prevailed in Scotland from 1638 to 1649. "According to the Solemn League and Covenant, ratified by the Parliaments of England and Scotland, and also by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster in 1643, Presbyterianism was to be maintained in the kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and popery, prelacy, superstition, heresy, schism, etc., were to be extirpated. The Covenanters' in Scotland contended, as is well known, under much suffering, for this species of Presbyterian supremacy throughout the reigns of Charles II and James VII (II). As a measure of pacification at the Revolution, Presbytery was established in Scotland by act of Parliament, 1690; but it was of a modified kind. Substantially the Church was rendered a creature of the State, more particularly as regards the calling of General Assemblies; and prelacy was not only confirmed in England and Ireland, but there was a general toleration of heresy i.e. dissent. In sentiment, if not in form, therefore, this party repudiated the government of William III and his successors, and still maintained the perpetually binding obligations of the Covenants. The Covenanters acted under strong convictions, and only desired to carry out to a legitimate issue principles which have always been found in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland; but which, for prudential considerations, had been long practically in abeyance. In short, it is in the standards of the Covenanters that we have to look for a true embodiment of the tenets held by the great body of English and Scotch Presbyterians of 1643. Others gave in to the Revolution settlement, and afterwards found cause to secede. The Covenanters never gave in, and, of course, never seceded. Although thus, in point of fact, an elder sister of the existing Church of Scotland and all its secessions, the Cameronian body did not assume a regular form till after the Revolution; and it was with some difficulty, amidst the general contentment of the nation, that it organized a communion with ordained ministers.

The steadfastness of members was put to a severe trial by the defection of their ministers, and for a time the people were as sheep without a shepherd. At length, after their faith and patience had been tried for sixteen years, they were joined by the Reverend John M'Millan, from the Established Church, in 1706. In a short time afterwards the communion was joined by the Reverend John M'Neil, a licentiate of the Established Church. As a means of confirming the faith of members of the body, and of giving a public testimony of their principles, it was resolved to renew the Covenants; and this solemnity took place at Auchensach, near Douglas, in Lanarkshire, in 1712. The subsequent accession of the Reverend Mr. Nairne enabled the Covenanters to constitute a presbytery at Braehead, in the parish of Carnwath, on the 1st of August, 1743, under the appellation of the Reformed Presbytery. Other preachers afterwards attached themselves to the sect; which continued to flourish obscurely in the west of Scotland and north of Ireland. For their history and tenets we refer to the Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Glasgow, John Keith, 1842). Holding strictly to the Covenants, and in theory rejecting the Revolution settlement, the political position of the Covenanters is very peculiar, as they refuse to recognize any laws or institutions which they conceive to be inimical to those of the kingdom of Christ" (Chambers, Encyclopaedia, s.v. Cameronians). The Reformed Presbyterians regard themselves as the modern representatives of the Covenanters. See History of the Covenanters (2 vols. 18mo, Philad. Presb. Board); also the articles (See PRESBYTERIAN (REFORMED) CHURCH); (See CAMERON); (See SCOTLAND, CHURCH OF).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Covenanters'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/c/covenanters.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.


Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, November 21st, 2018
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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