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The Basis for Scottish Efforts to Create a Reformed Church in England, 1640-41

  • Charles L. Hamilton (a1)


An excess of partisan feeling has surrounded the study of the Covenanting movement in 17th century Scotland. The issues which led to the Second Reformation, bound so closely as they are with religious feeling, have often prevented historians from exhibiting a reasonable amount of objectivity toward God's New Israel, as the Covenanters were inclined to call Scotland. Consequently the Covenanters have usually been portrayed as either the embodiment of the true faith or as a group of bigoted and conceited fanatics.



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1. Rushworth, John, Historica Collections (London, 1721), Vol. III, pp. 1258–9.

2. Calendar of the State Papers, Domestic, 1640–41, 246P.

3. Wodrow MSS., folio LXXIII, no. 75, Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.

4. The charge against Laud is printed in Rushworth, Vol. IV, pp. 113–8. Theactivities of the Scottish ministers inLondon were also directed against the Anglican hierarchy; for an account of their efforts, see Ogilvy, James D., “Church Union in 1641,” Records of the Scottish Church History Society (1926) Vol. I, and Hudson, Winthrop B., “The Scottish Efforts to Preaburgh. byterianize the Church of England During the Early Months of the Long Parliament,” Church History (1939) Vol. VIII.

5. For an example of the Scottish attitude, see Baillie, Robert, The Unlawfulness and Danger of Limited Episcopacy… (London, 1641), p. 22.

6. Spalding, John, Memorials of the Troubles in Scotland and England, A.D. 164–A.D. 1645, ed. by Stuart, John (Aberdeen, 18501851), Vol. II, pp. 910; see also a letter from London, 9 March 1641, Wodrow MSS., quarto XXV, no. 148.

7. Scots Commissioners to General Leslie, 3 March 1641, Advocates Library MSS., 33, 4, 6; National Library of Scotland.

8. Scots Commissioners to the Conunittee of Estates at Newcastle, 27 February 1641, Wodrow MSS., folio LXXIII, no. 174. In assessing the causes of the dispute, the Commissioners wrote: “we conceive that aU this proceeds from the fervent desire the Kīng has to maintain episcopacy and to divert us from giving anyinformation against it and such as favors prelacy (who are very many here) labor to give very hard impressions against us.”

9. The Journals of Sir Simonds D'Ewes… ed. By Wallace Notestein (New Haven, 1923), p. 418.

10. Wodrow MSS., folio LXXIII, no. 174.

11. For the paper see C.S.P., Dom., 1640–41, pp. 485–6. The sequence of events from the publication of the first paper of the Scottish Commissioners is contained in The Letters and Jonraals of Robert Baillie, ed. by David Laing (Edinburgh, 1841), Vol. I, pp. 305–7.

12. The paper is printed in the appendix to Hetherington's, W. A.History of the Westminster Assembly (New York, 1853).

13. Ibid., p. 302.

14. Ibid., p. 305.

15. Ibid.

16. Letter to the Scots Commissioners, 17 March 1641, Wodrow MSS., folio LXXIII, no. 189. In reflecting on the episode, the Scots Commissioners believed that the “better sort” in England were pleased with the paper, for they now realized that the Scots were not trying to force presbyterian church government on them. Wodrow MSS., quarto XXV, no. 149.

17. Wodrow MSS., folio LXXIII, no. 192.

18. Ibid., no. 191; see also Baillie, Vol. I, p. 313.

19. Wodrow MSS., folio LXXIII, no. 214. The English also accused the Scots of trying to destroy some things which had existed in England for 1500 years. The Covenanters replied that this was a poor argument for it could be used against everything which had been accomplished in England since the time of Henry VIII.

20. Letter of the Committee in Edinburgh, 14 April 1641, and of the Committee in Newcastle, 19 April 1641, Wodrow MSS., folio LXXIII, nos. 217 and 218.

21. Commons' Journal, Vol. II, p. 148.

22. A History of England, from the Accession of James I… (London, 18831884), Vol. IX, p. 377.

23. The titlepage of the printed version of the paper refers the reader to Psalm 133:1 and I Cor. 1:10.

24. Henderson, along with most of the other Covenanting divines, was affected by the belief that an opportunity for a general reformation had arrived; see his The Unlawfulness and Danger of Limited Prelacy, or Perpetual Residence in the Church Briefly Discovered (London, 1641), p. 19.

25. It is obvious that the Covenanters' desires for security applied also to the constitutional changes which they had secured in Scotland or were in the process of securing. Both in theory and practice the Covenanters maintained a close connection between the church and the state and it was inconceivable to them that any attack on the Kirk would not be accompanied by one on its political allies. This attitude was expressed by the Committee of Estates in April 1644 when it stated that “there is so straight a conjunction betwixt… the church and state as the one cannot long enjoy peace without the other.” Register of the Committee of Estates, 1643–44, folio 204, General Register House, Edinburgh.

26. Miss Wedgwood notes that, in 1643, the Scots were motivated by their fears of a Royalist victory in England; Wedgwood, C. V., The King's War (London, 1958), p. 256.

27. On the Antrim plot, and its effects, see Baillie, Vol. II, pp. 73–5.

28. On October 3 the Scots Commissioners in London outlind the policies open to Scotland: war against England, removal of the King to Scotland, or else “concur with the Houses of Parliament for his restraint in this kingdom.” Correspondence of the Scots Commissioners in London, 1644–46, ed. by Henry W. Meikle (London, 1917), p. 218. In the circumstances the Scots chose the third alternative and tried to secure as acceptable provisions for Charles' detention as possible.

29. Robert Blair, a leading Covenanting divine, excused the action of the Scots in surrendering the King by stating that as long as Charles refused to accept the Covenant, the Scots could have acted in no other way unless they were prepared to endanger religion (i.e. the position of the Kirk in Scotland) and to make “an open breach betwixt the kingdoms,….” The Life of Mr. Robert Blair, Minister of St. Andrews, … ed. by T. M'Orie (Edinburgh, 1848), p. 194.

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Church History
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  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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