Defenses of Scottish Covenanting and the Indulgence and Occasional Hearing Controversies, 1661-1688

in Chronological Order



Order of Contents

No Date
Defenses of Cameronianism




Here are the major Scottish defenses of covenanting and writings surrounding the Indulgence controversy from the Persecuting Era of Scottish history (1661-1688). 

Important doctrines expounded and debated in these works include the continuing spiritual obligation of the Scottish, national covenants, civil resistance, presbyterianism, Church unity and communion, Church discipline, degrees of separation and the error of separatism.

Here is the historical background to this period: 

The era of persecution began in 1661 when King Charles II was restored to the throne and passed the Rescissory Act, which civilly annulled the Scottish, national covenants.  Erastian prelacy was shortly established in the Church.

As harsh, oppressive measures against dissenting presbyterians increased, such as the outlawing of field preaching, fining those not attending the parish churches and setting up an inquisitorial court of high commission, the covenanters took up armed defensive measures to protect their rights and liberties from God.  Most of the covenanter ‘handbooks’  in the 1660’s defend the presbyterian constitution of the Church of Scotland and the right of civil resistance.

In a devious (and largely effectual) attempt to divide the opposition, the government (in 1669, 1672, 1679, 1687) offered ‘Indulgences’ to ministers in order to allow them to serve in an established parish ministry with numerous restrictions.  The early indulgences contained the most restrictions, the later ones less. 

As an explicit affirmation of Erastianism and Prelacy was not required, one being able to maintain their own private convictions regarding such things, numerous ministers took each indulgence.  In the 1670’s, up till 1678, most of the covenanting works argued the sinfulness of accepting the Indulgences and continued reasons for non-conformity.

In 1680, a small fraction of the resisting, non-Indulged, covenanters, nicknamed Cameronians after their leader Richard Cameron, threw off the authority of the Scottish civil government and also argued and practiced separation from Indulged ministers. 

The inception of this division in the covenanters had begun in 1679, right before the battle of Bothwell Bridge.  For an illuminating account of the meetings and debates regarding this important parting of ways, see pp. 328-330 and 334-336 of Thomas M’Crie’s Story of the Scottish Church.  For the fascinating, full, primary source account, see Wodrow’s, History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, vol. 3, pp. 90-99

Thus, during the early 1680’s, one comes to the most interesting treatises of the period, over the questions of double separation, communion or non-communion with Indulged ministers and the occasional hearing of their preaching.  These treatises reach to the heart of Christianity, even to the fundamental, Scriptural principle of Church unity, in contrast to separatism.

Through the whole period one will find a development and progression of thought and practice from the mid-1600’s covenanters of the Scottish Second Reformation to the covenanters in the 1660’s, and each decade after, culminating in the defenses of the Cameronians in the 1680’s.

This collection represents a major strand of the theological writings of the period.

For very helpful notes on the authors and context of the works below, see the annotated bibliography for this period in John C. Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant, pp. 321-411 ff., ‘The Literature of the Later Covenanters’.

For one example of a stirring and poignant sermon from this period, drink in Robert M’Ward’s The Poor Man’s Cup of Cold Water Ministered to the Saints and Sufferers for Christ in Scotland who are in the Midst of the Scorching Flames of the Fiery Trial (1676).

May these resources prove a blessing to you, and confirm us in the Truth, as it is in Jesus.




Honyman, Andrew – The Seasonable Case of Submission to the [Episcopal] Church-Government, as now Re-Established by Law, briefly stated and determined  1662  45 pp.

Honyman (1619-1676) was a zealous covenanter before the Restoration of 1660, though turned his back to the cause and became a chief antagonist.

Matthew, Lord Bishop of Ely – An Abandoning of the Scottish Covenant: a Brief Theological Treatise Touching that Unlawful Scottish Covenant, after the Manner of a Sermon  1662  54 pp.

Brown of Wamphray, John – An Apologetical Relation of the Particular Sufferings of the Faithful Ministers and Professors of the Church of Scotland, since August 1660  1665  Rotterdam, Netherlands?

“without doubt, the most important [Scottish] theologian of this period” – James Walker (Theology and Theologians, 1888, p. 107)

One of the major handbooks defending the Scottish covenanters.  “The book had the honor of being burnt by the common hangman.”  Honyman, an ex-covenanter, responds to this work below.

Stewart, James & James Stirling – Naphtali, or the Wrestlings of the Church of Scotland for the Kingdom of Christ  1667

Stewart was a leading covenanting lawyer.  “Stewart wrote the defence of the Covenanters and the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland, justifying their position historically and legally.  That the book was ordered to be burned, and a 10,000 pound fine imposed on any possessing it, only increased its popularity.” – Dictionary of Scottish Church History, p. 794

Honyman, an ex-covenanter, responds to this work below.

Honyman, Andrew

A Survey of the Insolent and Infamous Libel, Entitled, Naphtali etc., wherein several things, falling in debate in these times are considered, and some doctrines in Lex Rex and the Apologetical Narration (called by this author martyrs) are brought to the touch-stone  1668  140 pp.

Survey of Naphtali: Part II, discoursing of the heads proposed in the preface of the former, together with an examination of the doctrines of the Apologetical Narration concerning the King’s Supremacy in and about Ecclesiastic Affairs, and the Obligation of the Covenants  1669  

Stewart, James – Jus Populi Vindicatum, or The People’s Right to Defend Themselves, and their Covenanted Religion, Vindicated  1669

Stewart draws especially from the principles of Buchanan and Rutherford, though in somewhat different circumstances than them.  This work responds to Andrew Honyman’s response to Naphtali, entitled, A Survey of the Insolent and Infamous Libel…

Burnet, Gilbert – A Modest and Free Conference Betwixt a Conformist and a Non-Conformist about the present distempers of Scotland  1669  

Burnet (1643-1715) was a latitudinarian, Arminian, conforming Anglican.  This work was responded to by MacWard, The True Non-Conformist. 



MacWard, Robert

The True Non-Conformist  1671  written in response to Burnet’s ‘Conference’ above.

MacWard was a protege of Rutherford.  This was a major, ultra-handbook of covenanting.  Written from Holland, MacWard was a friend of Brown.  This work was responded to by Burnet in 1673.  MacWard opposed his own successor in Rotterdam, Robert Fleming, over the question of communion with Indulged ministers.

The Case of the Accommodation Lately Proposed by the Bishop of Dumblane to the Non-conforming ministers Examined wherein also the ancient Prostasia, or, Episcopus Præses is considered, and the Solemne League and Covenant occasionally vindicat : together with a copy of the two letters herein reviewed : vvhereunto also is subjoined an appendix in ansvver to a narrative of the issue of the treaty anent accommodation  1671

Burnet, Gilbert – A Vindication of the Authority, Constitution, and Laws of the Church and State of Scotland: in Four Conferences, wherein the answer to the dialogues betwixt the Conformist and the Non-Conformist, is examined  1673  360 pp.

An English, conformist response to MacWard’s The True Non-Conformist.

Stewart, James – An Accompt of Scotland’s Grievances  EEBO  1674

Nye, Phillip – A Case of Great and Present Use whether we may Lawfully hear the now Conforming Ministers who are Re-ordained and have Renounced the [Solemn League and] Covenant and some of them supposed to be scandalous in their lives, considered and Affirmatively Resolved  1677

Nye was a Westminer divine and English Independent.  He had given speeches at the taking of the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) before the English Parliament and the Westminster Assembly.  He argues for hearing Indulged ministers.

Smith, Hugh & Jamieson, Alexander – An Apology for or Vindication of the Oppressed Persecuted Ministers & Professors of the Presbyterian Reformed religion in the Church of Scotland: emitted in the defence of them…  1677  210 pp.

Brown of Wamphray, John – The History of the Indulgence, showing its rise, Conveyance, Progress, and Acceptance: together with a demonstration of the unlawfulness thereof and an answer to contrary objections, as also a vindication of such as scruple to hear the indulged  1678  162 pp.

Responded to below by an indulged minister, Vilant, in 1681.



Vilant, William – A Review and Examination of ‘The History of the Indulgence’ by MacWard  1681

Argues for the lawfulness of accepting the Indulgence and hearing Indulged ministers.

Brown of Wamphray, John – The Banders Disbanded, or An accurate discourse solidly and plainly demonstrating how inconvenient, scandalous and sinful it is, in the present circumstances of the Church of Scotland, for ministers of Christ there that they may obtain a pretended liberty to preach and administer the Sacraments…   1681, about the 3rd Indulgence of 1679, with a preface by MacWard.  Brown died in 1679.  Johnston says Brown wrote it, EEBO says MacWard.

Fleming the elder, Robert – The Church Wounded and Rent by a Spirit of Division, held forth in a short account of some sad differences hath been of late in the Church of Scotland  1681

While not approving the indulgence, pleads for communion with indulged ministers.  Fleming was a minister of the Scots Church in Rotterdam, Holland, succeeding MacWard.

MacWard, Robert – Epagounismoi, or Earnest Contendings for the Faith  circa 1681  Being a response to Robert Fleming’s first and second papers for proposals for union with the Indulged

Nye, Philip – The Lawfulness of Hearing the Public Ministers of the Church of England Proved, by Mr. Philip Nye & Mr. John Robinson, Two Eminent Congregational Divines. Together with the Judgment of Dr. Goodwin, Dr. Owen & Other Independents, as well Ancient as Modern, Concerning Forms of Prayer, Parish Churches & Communion with them, & the Judgment of other Nonconformists about Kneeling at the Sacrament  (London, 1683)

Forrester, Thomas – Rectius Instruendum, or, A Review and Examination of the doctrine presented by one assuming the name of Informer, in three dialogues with a certain Doubter, upon the controverted points of Episcopacy…  1684  725 pp.  Table of Contents

Forrester (c.1635-1706) was a presbyterian and argues against Erastianism.  See Johnston, p. 382.

Dick, John – A Testimony to the Doctrine, Worship, Discipline, and Government of the Church of Scotland, and the Covenanted Work of Reformation as it was professed in the Three Kingdoms, together with an Account of the Persecution of Some of the Most Eminent our Days…  appx. 1684  60 pp.

Dick was a presbyterian martyr.

Mackenzie, George – Jus Regium, or, The Just, and Solid Foundations of Monarchy in General, and more especially of the Monarchy of Scotland: Maintained against Buchannan, Naphtali, Dolman, [John] Milton, etc.  1684  160 pp.

Mackenzie (1636/1638–1691) was a Scottish lawyer, Lord Advocate, essayist and legal writer.

This work was written against the political-resistance writings of George Buchanan, Rutherford’s Lex Rex and James Stewart’s Naphtali and Jus Populi Vindicatum, amongst others, and advocates the divine-right of kings.  It was written during some of the worst days of the Killing Times.


No Date

Brown of Wamphray, John – A Vindication of Fellowship Meetings, and of Hearing Faithful Suffering Ministers 

MacWard, Robert – The Movement

“Attributed to M’Ward.  It is an answer to a Prelatic disputant, and goes over the whole controversy between Presbyterians and Episcoplians.” – Johnston

Fraser of Brea, James

Prelacy an Idol and Prelates Idolaters: All Prelatists, Maintainers of, and Compliers with Prelacy, charged with Idolatry and Proven Guilty

Fraser (1639-1699)

The Lawfulness and Duty of Separation from Corrupt Ministers and Churches Explained and Vindicated  280 pp.

“An argument showing that by the [Solemn League and?] Covenant we are not bound to hear ‘conform ministers’.  Printed from a manuscript, in the days of the Erskines [Seceders in the early 1700’s] who, in view of the ‘sinful compliances’ of their time, deemed it ‘very seasonable and necessary.'” – Johnston, p. 367

“About 1663 I left off hearing the established Episcopalian clergy…” – Fraser’s Memoirs




Robinson, John – A Treatise on the Lawfulness of Hearing of the Ministers in the Church of England  1634  19 pp.  in Works, vol. 3, pp. 339-378

Though in a different context, John Robinson, one of the founding fathers of New England Separatism, argues here for the lawfulness of occasionally hearing the preaching of the Church of England ministers that they separated from.



Defenses of Cameronianism  the more significant ones

Renwick & Shields – The Informatory Vindication  1687

The most important, and lengthy, of the Cameronian declarations.  For the other several Cameronian declarations from that time see the mainpage of

Renwick, James – The Testimony of Some persecuted Presbyterian Ministers of the Gospel, unto the Covenanted Reformation  Jan. 17, 1688

ed. Shields, Michael – Faithful Contendings Displayed, being a historical relation of the State and Actings of the Suffering Remnant of the Church of Scotland who subsisted in Select Societies…  1681-1691   595 pp.

Shields, Alexander

The Explanation and Application of the Solemn League and Covenant, 1643  n.d.  35 pp.

A Hind let Loose; or, An Historical Representation of the Testimonies of the Church of Scotland, for the Interest of Christ: With the True State thereof in all its periods  1687  865 pp.

An overview of this work by Sherman Isbell:

“In A Hind Let Loose, Shields justified the Camerionian resistance to royal absolutism and the divine right of kings. He argued that government is divinely ordained, but the people are entitled to bring a king to judgement for wrongdoing. Parliament is commissioned by the people to oversee the nation’s affairs, but the compact between the people and their rulers does not entail a forfeiture of the people’s power to depose tyrants and confer authority on someone else. Government is by consent, and must justify itself to the consciences of the people. God has given men the right of self defence, and this extends to a a right not only passively to resist, but also to kill relentless persecutors,”  (Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology, p. 773)

The History of Scotch-Presbytery being an Epitome of The Hind let Loose  1692  55 pp.

The Life and Death of James Renwick, with a Vindication of the Heads of His Dying Testimony… 

A Short Memorial of the Sufferings and Grievances Past and Present of the Presbyterians in Scotland particularly of them called by nick-name Cameronians  1690

A True and Faithful Relation of the Sufferings of Alexander Shields  1715  145 pp.

A Letter Concerning the Due Boundaries of Christian Fellowship; specially, with whom ’tis lawful to join in divine worship, and from whom ’tis duty to withdraw: written to the prisoners for conscience, in Dunnottar-Castle, 1685  34 pp.

An Enquiry into Church-Communion, or, A Treatise Against Separation from the Revolution Settlement of this National Church, as it was settled in 1689  1706  154 pp.

The last three Cameronian ministers, Alexander Shields, Thomas Lining and William Boyd, all joined the reorganized Church of Scotland post-1690.  Shields said that he still affirmed all of the principles of the Informatory Vindication (1687), which he co-wrote, but here applies more Scriptural principles to the changed historical circumstances.  Here are his reasons.

For background to, and a summary of the arguments of An Enquiry into Church-Communion, see Matthew Vogan’s article, Alexander Shields, the Revolution Settlement, and the Unity of the Visible Church.




Related Pages

Scottish Church History 

The Scottish Resolutioner-Protester Controversy, 1650’s

The Church of Scotland on the Spiritual Conferencing of Elders

Scottish Books of Church Order, Discipline and Minutes

All of the Scottish Confessions, National Covenants and Declarations from the Reformation, Puritan and Covenanting Eras on Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only

Gillespie on the Early Church and Reformation Origins of Christ’s Two Kingdoms

All of Gillespie’s Writings on Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only

Church History


Against Separatism

Against Separation from Impure Civil Governments

Unity of the Church

Resistance to Tyranny


Scottish Continuationism?

The History of the Reformation and Puritan Era