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11017Re: [Covenanted Reformation] Passive obedience v. Political Dissent

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  • gmw
    Sep 4, 2004
      It might be helpful to keep the following things in mind in the
      discussion of the Covenanters' political dissent.

      1. It was only after Charles made the legal definition of "owning
      the king" to include owning him not only as the civil but also as the
      ecclesiastical head that Covenanters disowned him. The question "Do
      you own the king?" then became a bit more complicated than some
      suggest. John M'Millan III wrote,

      "The covenanters who suffered to the death under Charles, during the
      first period of the persecution, it is acknowledged, died owning him
      as king; such as the Rev. Mr. James Guthrie of Stirling, and the
      noble Marquis of Argyle. But, after that by the act explanatory, the
      spiritual supremacy was declared to be an inherent right in the
      crown, the later martyrs generally disowned him in both civil and
      religious matters; such as, the Rev. Mr. Donald Cargil, and Mr. David
      Hackstoun of Rathillet. The grounds upon which those martyrs who
      suffered prior to the act explanatory owned Charles II. were the
      following.—He was duly constituted their king according to the word
      of God, and covenanted reformation: and although they held their
      sufferings to be unjust, yet they did not apprehend, that one, or a
      few acts of maladministration in reigning powers, affecting
      individuals, invalidated the authority which had been lawfully
      constituted.—It was still hoped by them, that the prince would see
      his sin, and be reclaimed. —All their acknowledgement of him was
      founded upon his constitution; it still remaining the same till
      altered by the act explanatory. On these grounds, our noble martyrs,
      who fell a prey to Charles II. in the first period of the
      persecution, owned the authority under which they suffered."


      2. The Covenanters did not hold that it is ok to disown every
      magistrate that commits any acts of tyranny whatsoever.
      The Informatory Vindication states,

      "In things Civil, though we do not say that every Tyrannical act or
      action doth make a Tyrant, yet we hold, that habitual, obstinate, &
      declared opposition to, & overturning of Religion, Laws & Liberties,
      & making void all contracts with the Subjects, or when he usurps a
      power without any compact, or giving any security for Religion &
      Liberties, or when he is such as the Laws of the Land do make
      incapable of Government; These do sufficiently invalidate his Right &
      Relation of Magistracy, & warrant subjects, especially in Covenanted
      Lands, to revolt from under & disown allegiance unto such a power. In
      such a case, when the body of a Land collectively considered, or the
      more faithful & better part of that Land, in the time of National &
      universal Apostacy, & complete & habitual Tyranny, adhering closely
      to the fundamental constitutions & Laudable practices of that
      Covenanted Land (when the fundamental Laws of the Kingdom are
      directly overturned, & the essential conditions of the mutual
      Compacts are broken, & such as cleave closely to the Reformation &
      Liberties of the Kingdom are accounted Rebels, & prosecuted as such)
      may reject and refuse the Magistratical Relation between the Tyrant &
      them: yet, before the erection of formal Magistracy, they may not
      Lawfully arrogate to themselves that Authority which the Tyrant hath
      forfeited, or claim to themselves the Authority of Judges; though
      radically they have the Authority of the Law, by their Natural right,
      & fundamental power, which God allows & is Nature's attendant; & the
      Municipal privilege of these subjects; but they cannot act
      judicially, in either Civil or Criminal Courts, only in the interim
      they may Lawfully do that which may most conduce to the securing of
      themselves, Religion, & Liberty.

      3. That last bit brings up another important point. The Covenanters
      did not act as a parliament or in any other judicial office in doing
      what they did. They acted as private citizens, and distinguished
      what they were doing from what it is that only a parliament may do.
      Again, the Informatory Vindication states,

      "As for the principal and most material part of the Testimony, to
      wit, The disowning of Charles the Second; We distinguish between a
      judicial & Authoritative deposing, & a private Lawful & necessary
      disowning, & refusing any more to own him in a Magistratical relation
      over us, for ourselves & all who adhere unto & consent with us in our
      Declaration against him, as Head of the Malignants. The former we
      altogether deny to be done by us; The latter we have done, & own it
      as our duty; And that because of these reasons expressed in the
      Declaration, & hinted above pages 32,33. Chiefly for this, in the
      complex (which comprehends all) that he had inverted all the ends of
      Government, & everted & perverted Religion, Laws, & Liberties, which
      he was obliged to maintain, both by his office & trust, & by the
      superadded tie & obligation of sacred & solemn Oaths & Covenants; By
      breaking which, he had ruined & razed the very foundations, {53} upon
      which both his right to govern & the peoples allegiance were founded,
      & thereby he had loosed the people from all obligation to own his
      Authority: For the Articles & Conditions, agreed upon & mutually
      covenanted unto, betwixt a people & the Person or persons whom they
      entrust to rule over them for their good, are the only fundamental
      Laws, whereupon the Ruler's right to govern & the peoples' obligation
      to obey are founded, & which continues & regulates the relation of
      each to other, in their respective spheres & duties; And no Law,
      Divine nor Humane, does oblige one party to the performance of a
      mutual Condition to the other, while the other does not mutually
      observe nor perform his to them. And because he had usurped & exerced
      that Sacrilegious Supremacy."

      Just wanted to add these things, lest folks come to the wrong
      conclusion that Covenanters pick up their guns and cry for rebellion
      whenever an act of tyranny is committed.

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