December 3: First Covenant Subscribed (1557)
"The first godly band"
A covenant can most easily be thought of as a contract between God and man. As Presbyterianism was gaining ground in Scotland, so too the understanding of covenants. So it is that those Scottish Presbyterians, who came to be known as Covenanters, sought to bind themselves under a series of covenants, seeking to uphold Presbyterian doctrine, worship and government as the only expression of religion in the land.
It was in response to the perception that Roman Catholicism was attempting to regain its position in Scotland, by way of royal marriage, that the first "band" or covenant was signed. A document of great importance in connection with the history of the Reformation in Scotland, what is today known as the First Covenant of Scotland bound its signatories to uphold and promote "the blessed work of God and his Congregation [i.e., the Protestants] against the Congregation of Satan" [i.e., the Roman Catholics]. Among those signing the covenant were the Earls of Argyll, Morton, Glencairn and John Erskine of Dun. The text of this First Covenant follows:
The First Covenant of Scotland. At Edinburgh, 1557.
Then in God's providence, within just a few years, this was the picture throughout Scotland:
". . . In Scotland we hear that there have been some disturbances, I know not of what kind, respecting matters of religion; that the nobles have driven out the monks and taken possession of the monasteries; that some French soldiers of the garrison have been slain in a riot, and that the Queen was so incensed as to proclaim the banishment of the preacher Knox by sound of horn, according to the usual custom in Scotland, when they mean to send any one into exile. What has become of him I know not," . . . .London, May 1559.
". . . Everything is in a ferment in Scotland. Knox, surrounded by a thousand followers, is holding assemblies throughout the whole kingdom. The old Queen (dowager) has been compelled to shut herself up in the garrison. The nobility, with united hearts and hands, are restoring religion throughout the country, in spite of all opposition. All the monasteries are everywhere levelled with the ground; the theatrical dresses, the sacrilegious chalices, the idols, the altars, are consigned to the flames; not a vestiage of the ancient superstition and idolatry is left." -- London, August 1, 1559.
" . . . The Scots have in their camp the preachers Knox and Goodman, and they call themselves the 'Congregation of Christ.' Their next step was to send to the Queen to retire from Leith, if she would not be driven from thence by force and violence. And from this time they began to treat an alliance with England." -- London, Dec. 1, 1559.
[excerpted from letters of Bishop Jewel to Peter Martyr]
Words to Live By:
It is the Lord who raises up kings, and who brings down nations. (Judg 2:16; Isa. 9:11; Prov. 21:1). More importantly, salvation belongs to the Lord (Ps. 3:8; Jonah 2:9). When the Lord turns His face toward us, we shall be saved. When the Lord sovereignly sends His Spirit, then and only then might a nation be called back from sin and destruction to repentance and godliness. When Reformation came to Scotland, it was the work of the Lord and not the work of men. Pray the Lord would so move across this earth again. Pray that Christ would be lifted up, that all men might be drawn to Him.