27 Nov 2019

Reformation Tours: Solemn League and Covenant

This is the copy of the Solemn League and Covenant which is on display in the National Museum of Scotland. But what is it, and what is its connection with Scotland’s Covenanters?

Civil war between King Charles I and the Parliament broke out in August 1642. By 1643, after the king had won a number of battles, Parliament began to look for help from Scotland.

The English wanted a military union with the Scots, but the Scots instead wanted a religious union which would see the Church of England become the same in belief, worship, and church government as the Church of Scotland. As the Scottish minister Robert Baillie wrote, “The English were for a civil league, we for a religious covenant”. The end result was a mixture of both and was mainly written by Alexander Henderson.

The Solemn League and Covenant aimed to keep and protect the reformation of the Church of Scotland and to reform the Churches of England and Ireland, so that the three churches would be the same in church government, beliefs, and worship. It also aimed to completely get rid of Roman Catholicism, Episcopalianism, and any other wrong beliefs. It was signed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland and many people throughout England, Scotland and Ireland.

As a result of the Covenant, Scotland also sent five ministers and three elders to the Westminster Assembly, which had been set up by the Long Parliament in July 1643 to give advice about reforming the Church of England. Although there were only a few of them, the Scots had a massive impact on the work of the Assembly. Following the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, the main work of the Westminster Assembly was in writing documents that would bring the Church of England, Scotland, and Ireland as close together as possible.