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10835Renwick on the accusation of usurping civil authority

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  • gmw
    Aug 11, 2004
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      The following words are from James Renwick in reply to accusations
      that the Covenanters are usurping civil authority in disowning
      tryants. The entire letter can be read here:

      "Ye say, 'We have most unhappily thrust in ourselves into the
      magistrate's room, and taken to us the civil government.' Wherefrom
      do ye draw this? From our declining the magistrates, because tyrants?
      Then every man declining a prelate, because a church-officer not of
      Christ's appointment, thrusts himself into the prelate's room, and
      takes unto himself the ecclesiastic government; and what great
      absurdity will be here? But mistake me not; for I will not
      misinterpret your words: Ye say, 'That if every man of us, for
      himself, had said, he could not own the magistrates and the present
      government, because tyrants and tyrannical; there had been little to
      be said; especially if we had done as we said, striving like men to
      cast off the yoke.' But, granting it had been so, there would have
      been something to be said; for little to be said, imports something
      to be said; and I know many said very much, even against the matter
      of the deed: Also, we could have said more, than that we, every man
      for himself, could not own the government, because tyrannical; and
      the magistrates, because tyrants: For we could have said, we, for
      ourselves and all our adherents, and all these by whom we were sent
      and commissionated for that deed, could not own the foresaids; and
      that the law of God, the law of nature, and the fundamental laws of
      our land, and our covenants, did oblige all the subjects of the
      kingdom (especially these who yet profess adherence to our covenants)
      to do, as we have done: And this is all that I understand, by any
      words in our declaration (about which ye make so much matter of
      debate.) Also, how can it be instructed, that we have acted as a
      convention of estates? The mere disowning of the present government
      and governors, doth it not; for that is an act radical and natural.
      And as for the expression itself, in our Lanerk declaration, (used in
      the historical relation of the Sanquhair declaration preceding) to
      wit, convention of estates; what needeth so much fighting about it,
      seeing ye know our mind? Famous Mr. Rutherford saith, in his
      Peaceable Plea, chapter 9, page 107, "That he lists not to strive
      about names." We crave only that right, that God and nature have
      given us; and, come in behind us, or go out before us who will, let
      us have our own place. Howbeit, as to me, these words, that ye fight
      so much against, in our declaration, may bear a safe sense, though I
      disown the sense ye put upon them: For, as to convention of estates,
      I understand it not in a formal and proper sense, extending itself
      judicially over the whole land (although all were obliged to have
      concurred with us, by reason of the duty of the action:) But in an
      improper and figurative sense; yea, may it not be said by Synecdoche?
      the better part getting the denomination of the whole; they acting
      jointly, by common consent, and explicit commission, for that effect,
      from several honest sufferers, in several corners of the land, in the
      name of all their adherents; and founding upon the law of nature, the
      fundamental laws of the kingdom, and our laudable constitutions. And
      as to the other expression, in our Lanerk declaration, to wit, 'In
      our name and authority;' I understand it not as importing the
      authority of the judge, but the authority of the law, which certainly
      they had; they keeping by the fundamental laws of the land.

      "And as to that, in our first declaration at Sanquhar,
      viz. 'Representatives of church and covenanted nation:' What
      absurdity is there in saying, that these elders, who keep closest by
      the lawful constitutions of a church, are the representatives
      thereof? And people of a covenanted nation, who keep closest by their
      covenants, (even though they were never so few) are the
      representatives thereof, as it is covenanted; though not in an
      authoritative and nomothetical, yet in a material and participal
      sense; as it hath a relation to the word from whence it is derived,
      that is representatives, not as it is strictly taken, for these who
      are clothed with formal authority; but as it is largely taken, for
      these who do represent, or are in the place of others, doing that
      which all, whom they represent, are obliged unto, from the nature of
      the thing. But I do not hold, that these declarations were emitted by
      a formal judicatory, as having the authority of any judge: for as
      yet, I see not how some persons, as having ecclesiastic authority,
      and others, as having civil authority, could authoritatively concur
      in one action: I leave this to the tyrant's council, which is made up
      of lords spiritual and temporal, as they call them. So, I look upon
      the declarations to be emitted by the publishers, as free subjects,
      for themselves, and these, from whom they were commissionated, for
      that effect; and all others their adherents. And, for mine own part,
      I wish that these words had been otherwise expressed, that so they
      might not have admitted of such various senses. Nevertheless, I still
      think, where there is a cordial agreeing with the matter and intent
      of these papers, there would not be any such inveighing against these
      expressions; especially seeing the minds of the owners thereof are
      sound (even anent the same) and their meaning good. And I wonder
      greatly how ye can exclaim so much against the foresaid names, seeing
      we told you many times, in our conferences together, our judgment
      concerning them, that we owned them not in the sense that ye put upon
      them; and that, rather than that debate should be kept up, upon such
      a head merely; though we could not resile from them in any safe and
      sound sense, wherein we ourselves could take them; yet, for union's
      sake in the Lord, we would be content to lay them aside, desiring no
      more of any, who would join with us, (as to that head) than their
      cordial agreement with the matter and intent of our foresaid
      declarations. Yet, notwithstanding of all this, ye often recurred
      upon these words at our meeting, and now have written, that 'we have
      most unhappily thrust ourselves into the magistrate's room;' and
      that 'we continue most unhappily to manage civil affairs.' Seeing
      that ye know our minds, Sir, why will ye make men such offenders for
      words? suppose they could bear no safe sense at all: Will such a
      spirit be helpful, to the healing of our breaches? And how comes it,
      that in the relation, which ye give of our conferences, ye say, 'That
      we have disowned such things,' and in this your letter ye say the
      contrary, asserting, that 'we continue yet, most unhappily to manage
      civil affairs.' And whereas ye say, 'There would have been little to
      be said, especially, if we had done as we said, striving like men to
      cast off the yoke:' We have done as the Lord gave us spirit and
      ability; and he hath assisted many of us, (O praise be to him alone
      for it) to wrestle to our utmost breath, and to leave our blood both
      on scaffolds and fields, in testimony against the wrongs done to our
      Lord Jesus, by that tyrannical government. And I think people should
      not speak much of our doing little, until they do more themselves.
      And for my own part, I wish, the Lord might polish and raise up a
      party, whose zealous, Christian, and manly actions, might obscure all
      ours: For, the glory is only due to the Lord, and not to any
      creature; and a self-denied Christian will desire, that all
      instruments' hands may be hid, to the end that the Lord's hand may
      the more appear; so that, he may get all the praise of the work. Now,
      from this, I wish, ye may see how groundless your accusation is."