Rev Kenneth Stewart

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A Serious Violation

A deeper problem still lies in the fact that new form of the British Constitution is in violation of a previous constitution adopted, under oath, before God.

The current constitutional arrangements date from the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 and, as well as including ancient documents such as the Magna Carta and Habeus Corpus, consists of the Bill of Rights (1689), the Act of Settlement (1701), the Acts of Union (1706 in England and 1707 in Scotland); the Parliament Acts (1911, 1949) and the Human Rights Act (1998).

However, it is almost completely forgotten that all of these documents from 1689 onwards are in express violation of the previous constitutional documents governing Scotland. These were: the National Covenant (1638) and the Solemn League and Covenant (1643).

The National Covenant (1638) – in its essence, a renewal of a previous covenant dated from 1581 – re-affirmed the Scots Confession of Faith, vigorously asserted the independence of the church from civil interference and recounted the various Acts of Parliament which had condemned Roman Catholicism as well as other innovations – particularly in the worship of the church.

The Solemn League and Covenant (1643) was, as its name suggests, not just a military league but a solemn civil and religious covenant which bound the nation as a whole, through its government officials, to the ‘preservation’ of the ‘doctrine, worship, discipline, and government’ of the Church of Scotland and the ‘reformation’ of religion in the kingdoms of England and Ireland in ‘doctrine, worship, discipline, and government’ according to the Word of God and the example of the best reformed Churches. It also bound all parties to endeavour to bring the Churches of God in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in all these areas of faith and practice.

Crucially, these Covenants were adopted into the Constitution of both Church and State – and the terms of adoption made plain that they were to be perpetual!

First, they were adopted into the constitution of the Church of Scotland. In the case of the National Covenant, this was done through its formal adoption by the General Assembly in 1639 by means of a public oath taken by all office-bearers of the church. In the case of the Solemn League and Covenant, it was approved, again by the taking of an oath, by the General Assembly in 1643.

Significantly, without taking this oath, an act often referred to as ‘taking the Covenants’, no-one could be admitted into office in the Church or indeed be permitted to continue in office. This fact alone, apart from all other considerations, is enough to explode the myth that the Covenants were somehow not considered part of the constitution of the church.

Second, they were also adopted into the constitution of the land – again, by means of solemn oath. In the case of the National Covenant, this was done by the Scottish Parliament in 1940 while the Solemn League and Covenant was adopted by the Scottish Parliament in 1644.

It should be noted also that The Solemn League and Covenant was also adopted by the English Parliament into her own constitution – yet again by means of a solemn oath sworn before God – and was later sworn to by the King. Both Houses of Parliament (Lords and Commons) rose while the document was read in St Margaret’s Church, London and, with raised hands, swore to preserve it. In this way, this once-famous document, now buried in oblivion, became a foundational constitutional document governing the Kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland.

According to this Constitutional arrangement, then, the Scottish nation, including its Monarch (who signed the Covenants) was bound to preserve and promote Reformed doctrine and Presbyterian government in Scotland and to strive wholeheartedly to establish the same in England and Ireland. This constitutional advance, simply because it bound to the truth of God, in the presence of God, and pledged allegiance to his Word as the fundamental constitutional document, bound Scotland in a perpetual Covenant – as the Marquis of Argyll stated at his martyrdom, ‘God has laid engagements on Scotland and it passes the power of all the magistrates under heaven to absolve from the oath of God’.

Clearly, then, prior to the current arrangements coming into force with the ‘Revolution’, the most recent constitutional documents governing the separate Kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland were as follows: in the case of Scotland, the National Covenant (1643) and The Solemn League and Covenant (1643) and, in the case of Ireland and England (including Wales), The Solemn League and Covenant (1643).

It cannot be stressed enough that when we consider that these Covenants were received in a lawful manner; that they were intentionally and explicitly adopted as part of the ecclesiastical and civil constitution of the land; that they were taken by all parties with an oath; that they bound to what was lawful and right according to the Word of God and that they (again, intentionally and explicitly) bound posterity – we must conclude that these Covenants became, from the moment of their adoption, the primary constitutional documents governing the land.

In stands to reason then, that any further addition to the British Constitution, from that point, should in no way violate the terms of the Covenants.

However, the new Constitutional arrangements dating from the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of 1688 did precisely that. As we saw earlier, they established Prelacy (rule by Bishops) in England and Ireland as the only form of church government (in perpetuity); they established the Monarch as Head of the Church of England (again, in perpetuity) and enshrined her right to appoint her Bishops into political rule over the new United Kingdom of Great Britain. These new constitutional arrangements – which the Monarch is bound to uphold - are in clear violation of the then existing constitutional arrangements as outlined in the Covenants.

And, surely, those who adhere in principle to the former Constitution cannot conscientiously and simultaneously, bind themselves by oath to uphold a contrary Constitution?

So, then, we have a grave omission (that of an express acknowledgement of the sovereignty of Christ as supreme King), a grave intrusion (by the Monarch into the Headship of the Church) and a grave violation (of the existing Covenanted constitution).

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