Social Covenanting

“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.”

Josh. 24:25

“And Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and the people, that they should be the Lord’s people; between the king also and the people.”

2 Kings 11:17

“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.”

Jer. 50:5



The preamble to the Solemn League and Covenant (1643), a godly example of social covenanting made between the Long Parliament of England and Scotland, in order to

“endeavor, in our several places and callings, the preservation of the reformed religion… 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… the Lord may delight to dwell in the midst of us.”




Westminster Divines on Social Covenanting
Against Separatism
Defenses of Scottish Covenanting & the Indulgence & Occasional Hearing
.      Controversies, 1661-1688



Order of Contents

History of the SL&C





Rouse, Francis – ‘That this Obedience to the Present Government [of Cromwell] is Not Contrary to, but Consistent with our Solemn League & Covenant’  being part 2 of The Bounds & Bonds of Public Obedience…  (1649), pp. 38-66

Rouse was a Westminster divine and argues that while the SL&C was still binding in its moral principles, yet it formally ceased in England as a civil ‘league’, with its original circumstances, when Oliver Cromwell (who was not in the line of kings) took over in 1649.

“The debate was initiated by Francis Rous who published a brief pamphlet in April 1649 [The Lawfulness of Obeying the Present Government] in which he argued that allegiance could be given to the Commonwealth [of Cromwell] even though it were acknowledged to be an illegal power.” – Wiki on Anthony Ascham

Crofton, Zachary

Analepsis, or, Saint Peter’s Bonds Abide: for Rhetoric Worketh No Release, is Evidenced in a Serious & Sober Consideration of Dr. John Gauden’s Sense & Solution of the Solemn League & Covenant: so far as it Relates to the Government of the Church by Episcopacy  (1660)

This was written at the Restoration of Charles II (1660) who civilly rescinded the SL&C, and other puritan legislation, in England.  Dr. Gauden, a reformed Anglican, strangely, had argued that the SL&C was consistent with Episcopacy.  Crofton refutes this notion.

Crofton (1626-1672) was reformed, a presbyterian and a puritan who was born and raised in Ireland.  He came to England in 1646.  He was ejected from the Church of England at the Restoration.

Berith Anti-Baal, or Zachary Crofton’s Appearance Before the Prelate-Justice of Peace, Vainly Pretending to Bind the Covenant & Covenanters to their Good Behavior. By way of Rejoinder to, & Animadversion on Doctor John Gauden’s Reply or Vindication of his Analysis, from the (by him reputed) Pitiful Cavils & Objections; but really proved powerful and convincing exceptions of Mr. Zachary Crofton’s Analepsis. By the author of the Analepsis, & (not by the Dr. Observed) Analepsis Anelephthe, to the Continuing of St. Peter’s Bonds & Fastening his Fetters against Papal & Prelatical Power  (1660)  68 pp.

Dr. Gauden had responded to Croften’s Analepsis above with Anti Baal-Berith; or The Binding of the Covenant & All Covenanters to Their Good Behaviors, by a Just Vindication of Dr. Gauden’s Analysis.  Crofton responds to this work.

The Covenant Newly Revived: In a Conference Between Mr. Crofton & a Converted Scotch Parson. Discovering all the Whole Mystery of Iniquity Carried on by Hair-Brained Faction Under Pretense of Reformation  (1661)  16 pp.



Boston, Thomas – Doctrine 2, ‘That Professors Ought to Beware of Schism & Division’  in ‘The Evil, Nature & Danger of Schism, a Sermon’ on 1 Cor. 1:10  (1708)  in Works (1848), vol. 7, pp. 602-10

Boston argues against those in the United Societies who remained separate from the Church and State of Scotland in his own day upon pretense of the Solemn League & Covenant and other impurities in the Church and State, post-1690.

Boston argues (rightly) three points: (1) that the separatists are not the strictest party according to Scriptural principles, (2) that there is not just grounds for separation from the post-1690 Church of Scotland, and (3) that their principles are not the principles of ‘our covenanted Reformation’.

Moncrieff, Alexander – The Duty of National Covenanting Explained, Some Sermons Preached at the Renovation of our Covenants, National & Solemn League, in the Bond Adapted to our Present Situation & Circumstances in this Period, by the Associate Presbytery…  1744  (Edinburgh, 1747)

Moncrieff was a Scottish Seceder minister, or the Associate Presbytery.

Gib, Adam – ‘Concerning the Presbytery’s Manner of Renewing our Covenants’  in The Present Truth, a Display of the Secession Testimony  (1774), vol. 1, pp. 259-74

The Scottish Seceders held that the Scottish national covenants’ moral and spiritual principles bound perpetually, though historical circumstances change.  Hence in the mid-1700’s, the covenants could not be taken in their original form, but were renewed by the Presbytery as adapted to their situation, still affirming all of the moral and spiritual principles of them.

A minister who had recently joined the Secession, Thomas Nairn (1680-1764), objected to this, reflecting the influence of the United Societies.  He insisted the covenants be renewed as to their original form and words, and to do otherwise was not to be faithful to them.  He was, after 3 years of instruction and admonition, deposed from the Seceders.  He then joined John Macmillan and shortly formed the Reformed Presbytery, though he would secede from them as well.

Gib demonstrates from Scripture that it is proper for women to personally vow to public covenants in vol. 1, p. 256.

Brown, John, of Haddington – Letter 2  in The Absurdity & Perfidy of All Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy…  in Two Letters to a Friend, in which…  the Nature, Origin, Ends & Obligation of the National Covenant [1638] & Solemn League [1643] are Candidly Represented & Defended  Buy  (1780), pp. 95-157

Brown (1722-1787) was the grandfather of John Brown of Edinburgh and was a professor and leading minister in the Scottish Secession Church.



M’Crie, the elder, Thomas – Section 9: Of the Difference with Respect to Religious Covenants  in Statement of the Difference… Particularly on the Power of Civil Magistrates Respecting Religion, National Reformation, National Churches & National Covenants  (1807)

M’Crie, ‘The Defender of the Covenanters’, describes the difference between the new constitutional documents of the Scottish Seceders moving in a New Light (and diluted) direction versus the older position of the Scottish Seceders, which he held to.  The first half of the article analyzes the inadequacy of the New Light definition of covenanting.  The second half touches on the Solemn League and Covenant, holding that it continues to bind Scotland in its moral principles, though circumstances have changed from some of its original wording.

“When the Associate Presbytery [the Seceders] engaged in the renovation of the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms, they did this in a bond suited to their circumstances. And they did so with the greatest propriety…”



Fentiman, Travis

A Brief Summary of the Majority Opinion in the Free Church of Scotland on Covenanting, summarized in 13 concise points, 20 paragraphs

Here is the Biblically principled, majority historic view on the subject, with special reference to Scotland and her churches

A Defense of the Majority Opinion in the Free Church of Scotland on Covenanting, 36 points, 135 paragraphs, with a select annotated bibliography

This is an extensive articulation and defense of the majority historic view on the Solemn League and Covenant, argued from scripture, history and the reformation in Scotland.



Alexander Henderson

The Declaration of Mr. Alexander Henderson…  Made upon his Death-Bed  (London, 1648), pp. 8-10

“…and I declare before God and the world that it was far from the intention of those that contrived it [the SL&C], to wrong the King and his posterity…  and the foresaid supplication doth manifestly declare their intent being only to have settled a conformity in Kirk government throughout all his Majesty’s dominions…

I do further declare before God and the World that they [the English] are guilty of the breach of the Sacred Covenant, and that we have discharged our duty thereof (which is only promissory & conditional as all oaths de futuro [of the future] are) by endeavoring to effectuate it quantum in nobis erat [insofar as we are in it], and that we are absolved in foro poli & soli [in the sight of the city and self] of any oath or vow contained therein, insofar as concerns the settling of religion in the Kirk of England and Ireland, and that we are only bound thereby to preserve the Reformation of Religion
in our own Kirk and Kingdom [of Scotland]…

Therefore I exhort and conjure you, again and again, in the bowels of our Lord Christ, and words of a dying man, especially my brethren of the ministry…  to stand fast and firm to this point of your Covenant, which you were bound to before by the Law of God and of this Land [of Scotland], and never suffer your selves by all the gilded allurement of this world, which will prove bitter and deceitful at last, to relinquish it.”



The History of the Solemn League & Covenant



MacKenzie, Kirsteen

Presbyterian Church Government & the ‘Covenanted Interest’ in the Three Kingdoms, 1649-1660  PhD thesis  (Aberdeen University, 2008)  When on the page, click on the top of the two links and then hit ‘continue’.

The Solemn League & Covenant of the Three Kingdoms & the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663  Pre  (2017)

Frazier, Nathan – Maintaining the Covenant idea: the Preservation of Federal Theology’s Corporate Dimensions among Scotland’s Eighteenth-Century Evangelical Presbyterians  PhD diss.  (Edinburgh, 2010)




“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 theLord gave them rest round about.”

2 Chron. 15:15




Related Pages

The Westminster Divines on Social Covenanting

Against Separatism

Unity of the Church