Puritan Memoirs - Mr. Alexander HendersonPuritan Memoirs - The Life and Death of Some Reformed Ministers
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IF men of talent, integrity, and fortitude, who have sacrificed their ease and their interest in defending the rights, and promoting the safety and happiness of society, have any claim to the gratitude and honorable remembrance of their countrymen, the subject of the following memoir must come in for an uncommon share. Amongst the distinguished characters, whose learning and abilities the religious controversies of the seventeenth century called into exercise, Alexander Henderson, one of the ministers of the city of Edinburgh, acted a most conspicuous part. He was born about the year 1583. Of his parents, and other circumstances connected with the early part of his life, no satisfactory information has reached us. With a view to the church, he was sent to the university of St. Andrew’s, to finish his education, about the beginning of the seventeenth century; where, having gone through his courses of learning, and passed his degrees with applause, he was chosen teacher of a class of philosophy and rhetoric in that ancient seminary, some short time before the year 1611, as appears from his name being affixed to a letter of thanks to the king of that date.
The church of Scotland, about this time, was in a most deplorable condition. The liberty of her assemblies no longer existed. The king claimed an absolute power in all church matters, and changed, by his proclamations, both the time and place of their meetings, as it suited his caprice, interest, or inclination. No bishop, 110 king, was now the word; for his majesty had got into his head, that the Presbyterian equality among the ministers of the church, could by no means correspond with a monarchy in the state, and that nothing but a batch of bishops could give a firm establishment to the three estates in parliament. Full of this chimerical notion, he attempted, both by deceit and violence, to favor his beloved subjects in Scotland with the splendid hierarchy of the church of England; and the crafty prelates, catching at preferment, basely flattered him therein. So that prelacy, with all its numerous train of ceremonies and superstitions, was audaciously obtruded on the church of Scotland, notwithstanding that of late she had most deliberately and very solemnly relinquished, and for ever cast off, that unsufferable yoke. The better to support these tyrannical and obtrusive measures directed against the Presbyterian government of the church of Scotland, her ablest ministers, and most faithful watchmen, were shamefully and most unjustly silenced, imprisoned, and either banished the king’s dominions, under the pain of death, or driven into remote corners of the land, where they had no opportunity of opposing these tyrannical measures of the king and his corrupt court. Even at the time of the king’s departure to England, that courageous opposer of prelacy, Mr. Robert Bruce, was suspended from preaching, and afterwards shut up in Inverness for four years. Mr. Andrew Melvill and Mr. John Davidson were also detained in confinement at the king’s removal, though the prison doors were thrown open, as he proceeded on his journey, to a very different description of prisoners. The Scotch universities, and other seminaries, were greatly corrupted, at this time, by the casting out of sound teachers, and filling their places with corrupt and timeserving men, who encouraged the measures of the court. Hence the youth, placed under the tuition of these court parasites, by imbibing the heterodox poison which they had industriously cast into the fountain, rapidly disseminated it through the whole land.
In this state of confusion and dismal anticipation, Mr. Henderson, being then a young man of surprising abilities; and ambitious of preferment, adopted the principles, and advocated the measures of the court and prelatical party in the church; and shortly after, through the patronage of archbishop Gladstanes, he was presented to the parish of Leuchars in, the shire of Fife. His settlement, in this place, however, was peculiarly unpopular. On the day of his ordination, the opposition of the people was such, that they so firmly secured the church doors, that the ministers who ‘attended, together with the presentee, were obliged to break in by the window. Mr. Henderson was well known for a defender of those corruptions to which the body of the Scottish nation were exceedingly averse; but what augmented the evil, and rendered his ministry, if possible, more exceedingly unpopular, was the little or no regard he discovered for the instruction and edification of the flock on whom he had been so wantonly obtruded. It was not long, however, till his religious sentiments and character underwent a change, which happily influenced the whole of his future life. The occasion was this, Mr. Bruce, who had been banished to Inverness, having obtained liberty to return from the place of his confinement, improved every opportunity that offered itself in preaching the gospel, and multitudes flocked to his ministry. Mr. Henderson, hearing of a communion in the neighborhood where Mr. Bruce was expected to assist, went secretly, and took his seat in a dark corner of the church where he might not be readily observed. Mr. Bruce entered the pulpit, and, after a solemn pause, in his usual manner read his text with his accustomed emphasis and deliberation, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber;” words highly descriptive of an intruder, and so literally analogous to the mode by which Mr. Henderson entered on his pastoral office at Leuchars, that it went like a dagger to his conscience, and left an impression on his heart, which issued in his conversion to God; and ever after he had a strong affection for Mr. Bruce, whom he considered his spiritual father, and often spoke of him in terms of the highest respect. It was not long till the change, which had been wrought on his mind, discovered itself in a very different manner of ministerial conduct. He now became zealous in the cause of his divine Master, and peculiarly active in promoting the spiritual interest and welfare of his flock, by all means endeavoring to remove the offence that his irregular settlement had occasioned amongst them. Upon this interesting subject, let us take his own words when addressing his brethren, from the moderator’s chair, at the famous assembly at Glasgow many years after. “There are divers amongst us (says he), who have had no such warrant for entering on the work of the ministry as the laws of Christ prescribe. Alas? how many of us have rather sought the kirk, than been sought by the kirk? How many have rather had the kirk given to them, than been given to the kirk for her edification? And yet there must be an obvious difference between those who have lived and officiated for many years without any warrant from God, and those, who, in some respects, have entered unlawfully into the pastoral charge, and having afterwards discovered their “error” done what in them lay to repair the injury. The one is like a marriage altogether unlawful, and consequently null in itself; the other is like a marriage in some respects unlawful and inexpedient; which, nevertheless, may be mended and improved by the diligence and fidelity of the parties, in afterwards conscientiously discharging their reciprocal duties. Just so should it be with us, who have lately entered into the work of the ministry. If there were any faults or wrong steps in our entry, as who amongst us are altogether free in this respect, let us consider, that the Lord has called us, if we have since got a seal from heaven, and let our former improprieties induce as to double our diligence, zeal, and integrity, in the work of the gospel.”
Mr. Henderson began to see the object of the prevailing party, and the measures ‘by them adopted for obtaining that object, in a very different light than he had formerly done through the false medium of ambition and worldly aggrandizement. By a deliberate and minute investigation of the scriptures, and the writings, of the ancients, he was folly satisfied, that prelacy, rack as it is in the church of England, has no foundation in the word of God: That presbytery was more conformable to the sacred oracles and the practice of the primitive church, and much more favorable to piety and Christian liberty, than that Prelatical system which had been imposed on the Scottish people. From this time forward Mr. Henderson became an active opposer of the innovations of the court, and of those despotic measures by which they endeavored to supercede the Presbyterian religion in Scotland. His rare abilities pointed him out as a proper person for taking a leading part in the public concerns of the church during that critical period; which, at the earnest solicitations of the party, he undertook, and by his undaunted courage, and dexterity in argument, his peculiar skill and activity in managing the most difficult and delicate affairs, procured for himself a distinguished reputation, and, to the end of his days, retained the confidence, and merited the unqualified approbation of his own party, while he commanded the respect even of his enemies.
From the moment that prelacy was first obtruded on the church of Scotland, a plan had been in operation for changing also the Presbyterian mode of worship, and bringing all to the standard of the church of England. In the prosecution of this plan, after a number of preparatory steps had been tried, an , assembly was suddenly convened at Perth, with the view of taking the Presbyterians by surprise. Above thirty noblemen and gentlemen, friendly to the king’s measures, were invited, by letters from his majesty, to attend this assembly, where, by the most shameful and barefaced partiality, the following articles were carried, after a strenuous opposition, and much argument from the faithful adherents to the good old principles of the Scotch church, amongst whom Mr. Henderson held a conspicuous place. These Articles, commonly known by the five Articles of Perth, are, 1st, Kneeling at the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. 2d, The celebration of five holidays, namely, the nativity, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, and the descent of the holy Spirit. 3d, Private baptism. 4th, The private administration of the Lord’s supper. 5th, Episcopal confirmation.
In August 1619, Mr. Henderson, and two other ministers, were called before the court of high commission at St. Andrew’s, charged with composing and publishing a book, entitled, Perth Assembly, proving the nullity of all their decisions, and with raising a subscription to defray the expenses of said publication. They accordingly made their appearance, and are said to have answered for themselves with so much wisdom, that the bishops could obtain no advantage against them, but very reluctantly dismissed them with severe threatenings.
From this period, till the year 1637, he does not appear to have suffered much, though strictly watched, and considerably cramped in his exertions to promote the cause of truth. The time thus spent in retirement, however, was not the least useful or happy period of his life. Sequestered in a great measure from the busy world, he improved his leisure hours in pushing his researches into the open and extensive field of theological controversy, in treasuring up those stores of knowledge, and sharpening those weapons of controversial warfare, which he was afterwards called upon to wield in defense of the truth. In the meantime, the conscientious discharge of his pastoral duties afforded him regular employment, and his success therein rewarded him with the purest gratifications. He had, besides, frequent opportunities at fasts, and sacramental occasions, of meeting with his brethren of the same sentiments, where, by their sermons and conferences, they stirred up and encouraged one another in adhering to the persecuted cause of Christ, and united in their prayers to God for deliverance from the evils, under which they were pressed down. Mr. Livingston informs us, “That in attending these solemn occasions, he had become acquainted with Mr. Henderson, between the years 1626 and 1630, and that his memory was precious and refreshing. Mr. Henderson was indefatigable in his labors for the promotion of truth and rectitude of conduct, while his own life and conversation corresponded with the doctrines he taught; yet, in spite of his superior talents, and the purity of his motives, he was often calumniated, and most maliciously misrepresented.” Bishop Guthrie affirms, “That the tumult which took place at Edinburgh, on the first reading of the Liturgy, on the 22d July 1637, was the result of a previous consultation, held in the month of April, when Mr. Henderson came from the brethren in Fife, and Mr. David Dickson from those in the west; and, in concert with Lord Balmerino and Sir Thomas Hope, engaged certain matrons to put the first affront on the Service book.” This story, however, is completely contradicted by the official accounts of that transaction, not only by those of the town council of Edinburgh, and the privy council, but also by that of his majesty; all which agree in the declaration, that, upon the strictest inquiry, it appeared, that the tumult was raised by the meaner people, without any influence, concert, or interference of the superior classes. The truth is, Mr. Henderson had no other hand in this affair, than by pointing out the dangerous tendency of the measure, and the fatal consequences to be apprehended from acquiescing with a system so directly opposed to the oath of God, which the Presbyterians had so solemnly sworn. On March 9th, 1637, about three months before this tumult took place, we find a letter of Mr. Samuel Rutherford’s, addressed to Mr. Henderson, in which, amongst other things, he says, “As for your case, my reverend and dearest brother, you are the talk of the north and the south, and so looked to as if you were all crystal glass; but your motes and your dust will soon be proclaimed, and trumpets blown at your slips. But I know you have laid your help upon One who is mighty. Trust not your comforts to men’s airy and frothy applause, neither lay your downcastings on the tongues of the mockers and reproachers of godliness. God has called you to Christ’s side; and seeing the wind is now in Christ’s face, and you are with him, you cannot therefore expect the lee side of the ship, or the sunny side of the brae; but I know you have resolved to take Christ upon any terms.”
The archbishop of St. Andrew’s, on purpose to deter others, charged Mr. Henderson, and other two ministers, to purchase, each of them, two copies of the Liturgy, for the use of their parishes, and that within fifteen days, on pain of rebellion. Mr. Henderson went to Edinburgh in the mouth of August, the same year, 1637, and presented a petition for himself and his brethren, stating their objections, and praying for a suspension of the charge. To this petition, and others of a similar nature, presented from almost every quarter, about the same time, a favorable answer was obtained from the council, and an account forthwith transmitted to London, stating the strong and general aversion of the people to a conformity. This step was of great importance, by directing those who were aggrieved to the proper mode of obtaining redress. From this time Mr. Henderson had his hands full of employment, and greatly distinguished himself by his activity in promoting the measures of the petitioners, and his prudent management had no small share in bringing them to an agreeable termination.
The time to favor Zion was now at hand; and we are informed, that the privy council having, at this time testified their aversion to the violent enforcement of the Prelatical usages, did afterwards, on many interesting occasions, befriend the petitioners. In 1636 a book of Ecclesiastical Canons was sent down from London, and, during the same year, a book of Ordination; and after a short pause, and some serious deliberation and delay, the Liturgy, or Service book, which was intended to complete this tyrannical work, made its unwelcome appearance in Scotland. This Service book was substantially the same with that used in the church of England, only it had been considered necessary, on this critical occasion, to make some trifling iterations, lest the national pride of the Scottish people might spurn lit a literal copy being imposed on the church.
Had Scotland tamely submitted to this bold obtrusion, and suffered them to rivet the chains with which they had already fettered the nation, she might afterwards have sighed and struggled for her liberty, but she must have struggled in vain. But the bold and arbitrary measures, by which these innovations were obtruded on the nation, were no less offensive than the innovations themselves. This, added to the chagrin produced by former tyrannical measures of the court and the bishops, excited universal disgust, and aroused an indignant spirit of opposition; which never subsided, till not only the obnoxious acts were swept away, but the whole fabric of episcopacy, which, daring so many years, they had been so anxiously laboring to consummate, was leveled with the ground. In the meantime, the petitioners were active in preparing themselves for meeting the doubtful crisis which was evidently approaching. They held their meetings for deliberation, and stirred up one another to an inflexible adherence to what they considered the cause of Christ and his gospel. Their meetings, in the meantime, were winked at; but after they had for a while been amused with fair promises, all of a sudden they were prohibited, by a proclamation from his majesty, under pain of rebellion. This unexpected procedure, on the part of the government, convinced the petitioners, that they had no reason to confide in the faith and. promises of the court; but that it behoved them to provide for their, own safety, and the defense of their cause, by some other means than they had yet resorted to. Accordingly, the recollection, that the nation of Scotland, in a similar situation of danger, had formerly entered into a solemn covenant, by which they bound themselves to God, and one another, to continue in the true protestant religion, and support and defend one another in accordance with the oath they had sworn against all their opposers—made them resolve, that this, the covenant of their fathers, should be renewed, and sworn by all who were willing so to support the independence of the Scottish church and nation. A draught of this covenant was therefore taken. It was substantially the same with the national covenant of Scotland, which had been sworn by all ranks, and ratified by all authorities in the kingdom, during the preceding reign, only that it was adapted to the circumstances in which they found themselves then placed, and also to the corruptions which had been latterly introduced. This covenant was sworn with uplifted hands, and subscribed in the Grayfriars church, Edinburgh, on the 1st March 1638, by thousands, consisting of noblemen, gentlemen, burgesses, ministers of the gospel, and commons from all parts of Scotland. “This memorable deed (says Mr. Lang), of which it would be improper to forget the authors, was prepared by Alexander Henderson, the leader of the clergy, and Archibald Johnston, afterwards of Warriston, advocate men in whom the supplicants chiefly confided—and revised by Lords Balmerino, Loudon, and Rothis. The covenant being thus agreed to, and sworn throughout the nation with much alacrity, the marquis of Hamilton was commissioned by the king to suppress it; but after several conferences with the Presbyterian deputation, and finding them inflexible, he proposed, in the name of his majesty, to withdraw the book of Ordination and the Liturgy, providing they would, on their part, relinquish their covenant. But instead of yielding, this proposal had the effect of making them more intent in supporting and vindicating this solemn transaction, and Mr. Henderson soon furnished the country with sufficient reasons why they should not relinquish any part of it. At this time the inhabitants of Scotland were divided into two parties, the covenanters and non-covenanters; and several of the former had partly submitted to the bishops, and conformed to the articles of Perth, though still accounted orthodox preachers, and zealous opposers of popery f and Arminianism; such as Messrs Robert Baillie, Henry Rollock John Bell, Andrew and Robert Ramsay, etc. who, upon the first appearance of the Service book, joined with their brethren in opposing the innovations. The town and shire of Aberdeen, influenced by their doctors in the university and the marquis of Huntly, had hitherto declined to join with the rest of the nation in carrying on the reformation. In order to persuade them to make common cause with the country, in this important national concern, the tables, as they were then called, or committees for managing the affairs of the petitioners, thought it advisable to send lord Couper, and the earls of Montrose and Kinshorn, together with Messrs Henderson, Dickson, and Cant, to persuade them to embrace the covenant. On their arrival at Aberdeen, they were but coldly received by the leading characters in the town. They were not permitted to preach in any of their churches, and their doctors presented them with fourteen captious and ensnaring questions, respecting the covenant, which they had drawn up with singular art and care. Different papers passed between the parties on this occasion, which were afterwards published. Those of the covenanters are said to have been written by Mr. Henderson. Under these unpromising circumstances, the three ministers resolved to preach in earl Marischal’s Closs or Hall, as the weather permitted, and accordingly preached by turns; Mr. Dickson in the morning, Mr. Cant at noon, and Mr. Henderson in.the evening, to great multitudes. They used every possible argument to persuade them to subscribe the covenant, and stand or fall with their Christian brethren; which had the effect of bringing over about five hundred men, some of them of the first rank, who subscribed with cheerfulness.
The covenanters, alive to the danger that threatened them, had been surprisingly active in uniting and arranging themselves; and the astonishing success that attended their endeavors so animated them, that the court was shut up to the necessity of granting the prayer of their petitions, that a general assembly and a parliament should be called, that the national grievances might be deliberately considered, and fairly redressed. Accordingly, a general assembly was called, and met in the High Church of Glasgow, on the 21st of November 1638, where, besides an amazing concourse of the people, all the nobility and gentry of any family or interest were present, either as members, assessors, or spectators. The assembly was opened by Mr. John Bell, with a sermon from Rev. i. 12, 13. “I saw seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto the son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” Mr. Bell also constituted the assembly in the name of Christ, the King and head of the church, and held the moderator’s chair till another was chosen. The assembly had just proceeded to the election of the moderator, when the bishops presented a declinature or protest against the legality of the assembly; and the marquis of Hamilton, the king’s commissioner, strongly urged, that this protest should be read before a moderator was chosen. To this it was reasonably objected, that without a moderator there could be no assembly, and therefore it was indispensably necessary first to make choice of a moderator. The commissioner, finding he could not prevail, protested against the refusal, and ordered it to be recorded. Before the election, the commissioner entered another protest; “That this choice should neither prejudice the king’s prerogative, nor any law of the kingdom, nor bar the king from taking legal exceptions, either against the person elected, or the election itself.” Considering the critical state of affairs, the length of time that had elapsed since a general assembly had been held in Scotland, the opposition and important discussions expected, and the multitude assembled to witness this momentous crisis, it was requisite, that a person of uncommon authority, resolution, and prudence, possessed of a profound judgment, and a ready elocution, should occupy that important place on so memorable an occasion. The eyes of the assembly were fixed on Mr. Henderson, who had, on several occasions, given signal proofs of his capability for such a difficult situation. He was, accordingly, chosen without a dissenting voice; and having taken the chair, and by solemn prayer constituted the assembly de nova, he addressed the members in a neat and appropriate speech, and so conducted himself, till the conclusion of their important labors, as to exceed the expectations of his greatest admirers. To the king’s commissioner he behaved with the greatest respect, and at the same time with an independence that became the head of a free assembly. To the nobility and gentry present, and to his brethren, he was equally decorous; but his prudence and ability were both brought to the test by the excommunication of the bishops, and the premature dissolution of the assembly by the king’s commissioner.
Notwithstanding that his majesty found it expedient to call together this assembly in the then distracted state of the church and nation, in order to prevent them from meeting without his concurrence, it would appear, from his after conduct, and the instructions given to his commissioner, that he never intended they should be allowed freely to proceed with their business. The nation was determined to abolish prelacy; the king, on the other hand, was equally determined to establish it in the country, and seemed to think he had been sufficiently condescending when he allowed them to register such concessions, as the state of his affairs rendered it impossible for him much longer to withhold. His commissioner was instructed to give no formal consent to any part of the assembly’s procedure. But the members, considering themselves met in a free assembly, were determined, to exercise that freedom which the laws of Christ authorize and prescribe. The protest of the bishops, after considerable altercation, was at last read at the repeated request of the commissioner; in which they endeavored to prove the illegality of the assembly; which allegation was triumphantly rebutted by some of the members. The assembly, of course, proceeded to vote themselves competent to decide on the merits of the libels presented against the bishops notwithstanding their declinature; when the royal commissioner interposed, by declaring, “That if they pretended to assume the right to try the bishops, he could neither give his consent, nor witness the transaction.” Here he made a speech, the substance of which may be seen in Stevenson’s History; and delivering the king’s concessions to the clerk to be read, he ordered them to be registered. After this Mr. Henderson addressed the commissioner in a speech, the substance of which is as follows: “It well becomes us, his majesty’s true and loyal subjects, convened in this honorable and reverend assembly, to receive so liberal a token of his majesty’s goodness with all thankfulness, and gratefully acknowledge the smallest crumbs of his majesty’s liberality. With our hearts we acknowledge before God, and with our lips we declare before the world, how far we consider ourselves obligated to yield obedience to our dread sovereign, wishing that the thoughts of our hearts, and the manner of our lives in time past, were manifest to him. It hath been the glory of the reformed churches, and we account it our glory, to give to kings and magistrates whatever belong to their respective places of .power and authority. We know, and cheerfully acknowledge, that, next to piety towards God, we are bound to be loyal to the prince; and there is nothing due to kings and princes, in matters ecclesiastical, which I trust will be denied by this assembly to our king: For besides his authority and power in matters civil, to a Christian king also belongs, 1st, Inspection of church affairs. 2d, Its vindication and protection from contempt and abuse. 3d, To sanction the constitutions of the kirk, and give them the authority of law. 4th, The power to compel kirkmen to perform the duties of their respective places. 5th, The Christian magistrate hath also power to convoke ecclesiastical assemblies, when the state of religion renders such a measure necessary; and in assemblies, when they are convened, we acknowledge his power is also great. Moreover, we heartily acknowledge, that your grace, as high commissioner, and representing the royal person of our sovereign, has an eminent place in this reverend and honorable assembly. 1st, We hope as a good Christian; 3d, As his majesty’s high commissioner; and, 3d, As one endued with singular gifts, and abundantly qualified for this employment. Far be it from us to deny any thing that is due either to the supreme ruler, or those delegated’ by his authority. When Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem, he desired them to set up his image in the temple. This the Jews modestly refused to do, because it was against their law, and that the law of God; but they liberally offered him what was in their power to grant, a favor much more honorable to the king, namely, to commence their reckoning of time from his arrival at Jerusalem, and also to call their firstborn sons by his name. What is our own, let it be given to Caesar, and given with cheerfulness. But let God, by whom kings reign, have his own place. Let Christ Jesus, the King of kings, have his own prerogative, by whose grace our king reigns; and, we pray, long may he reign over us in happiness and prosperity.”
The high commissioner seemed to receive this address with satisfaction. He replied, “Sir, you have spoken like a good Christian atod a dutiful subject, and I am hopeful you will conduct yourself with that deference which you owe to our royal sovereign; all of whose commands, I trust, will be found consistent with the commandments of God.”
The moderator then asked the members, if he should now put the question, Whether or not the assembly found themselves competent to decide on the case of the bishops? But the commissioner urged that the question be deferred. “Nay (said the moderator), with your grace’s permission, that cannot be. This is the only proper time after the consideration of the declinature.” “In this case (said the commissioner) I behove to withdraw.” “I wish the contrary (said Mr. Henderson), with all my heart, and that your grace would favor us with your presence, without obstructing the work and freedom of the assembly.” Finding the assembly were determined to proceed, the commissioner having urged Mr. Henderson, but without effect» to conclude by prayer, he, in his majesty’s name, dissolved the assembly, forbade their further procedure, and withdrew. On the departure of the commissioner, Mr. Henderson delivered the following animating speech: “All present know how this assembly was indicted, and what power we allow to our sovereign in matters ecclesiastical; but though we have acknowledged the power of Christian kings for convening assemblies, and their power in them, that must not derogate from Christ’s right, who has given warrant to convocate assemblies whether magistrates consent or not. Therefore, perceiving that his grace, my lord commissioner, is zealous in fulfilling the orders of his royal master, have not we an equal, if not a more powerful inducement, to be zealous’ in the cause of our divine Master Christ, and to maintain the liberties and privileges of his spiritual kingdom? You all know, that the work now on hand hath been attended with many difficulties, and yet hitherto the Lord has helped us to surmount them all. Let us not therefore be discouraged at our being thus deprived of human authority, a circumstance which ought rather to animate our courage, and stimulate our exertions in finishing the important work before us.” Having thus spoken, he desired any of the reverend and honorable members, who pleased to speak a word for the encouragement of their brethren, as God should put it into their hearts. Upon this Messrs David Dickson, Henry Rollock, Andrew Cant, and Andrew Ramsay of the clergy; Loudon of the nobility; Keir of the gentry; and Mr. Robert Cunningham of the boroughs—delivered beautiful and pathetic speeches, by which the members, and many of the spectators, were greatly encouraged. The moderator now put the question, Whether the assembly would adhere to the protestation against the royal commissioner’s departure, and proceed with the business for which they were convened? Which was carried with only about five dissenting voices. The competency of the assembly, to decide on the cases of the bishops of Scotland, was next carried with only four dissenting voices. A proclamation was issued, with great solemnity, at the Marketcross of Glasgow, against the assembly; but opposition rather animated than discouraged the members of this venerable body.
At the opening of the next session, Mr. Henderson again addressed the assembly, warmly recommending gravity, quietness, and good conduct; “the propriety of which (he said) was obvious on every occasion, but more especially so under the circumstances in which the assembly were convened, when the eyes of the nation were on them, and their enemies watching for an opportunity of scandalizing their proceedings; not that he assumed any thing to himself, but he was bold to direct them in a course which he was assured their own prudence and discretion must have chalked out on the present occasion.” To this prudent admonition the members of the assembly paid the strictest attention through all their sittings.
The earl of Argyle attended this second session, when the moderator earnestly entreated him, though no member, yet, for the common interest he had in the church, that he would he pleased to countenance them with his presence, and bear testimony to the rectitude of their proceedings; which he readily promised, and faithfully performed. Argyle was desirous that the Confession of Faith should be clearly explained. On which the moderator said, “Although we do not compare the Confession of any reformed church with the word of God, nor account it a rule of life, neither indeed that of our own church, any thing more than a form of confession, yet have we good reason • to consider it with honorable regard. Other churches have given it an ample testimony, and it were a shame for us to do less; and that we may do this with the greater propriety, it becomes necessary that we clearly understand the various articles it contains, especially such as have been controverted. But that, however necessary this was, it would require much time to hear and peruse all the books and acts necessary for effecting this desirable work; he proposed therefore that a committee be appointed for that particular purpose.” To this the assembly readily acceded. This assembly condemned the proceedings of six former assemblies; on which occasion Mr. Henderson said, “Having unanimously agreed to the condemnation of these corrupt assemblies, I hope henceforward they shall be considered as so many beacons, to prevent our striking on such dangerous rocks.
Some ministers, who had been tried by their respective presbyteries, and suspended, were remitted to this assembly for a higher punishment. When their case was under discussion, the moderator delivered a grave discourse on the power of the church; in which he observed, “That they ought to be heard with a feeling of compassion for themselves, and of joy and gratitude to God, who was now putting forth his hand for the cleansing of his own house — hoping, and exhorting, that the several judicatories would now faithfully exercise the power which the Lord had put into their hands.” Before sentence was given against the bishop of Galloway, Mr. Henderson made a short speech; in which he said, “The preaching of false doctrine, to seduce the people from their profession to that of popery and idolatry, is a crime deserving an high censure. But this man’s breach of the caveats, his bringing into this church the Service book, which you have already condemned for the many gross abominations therein contained, and his declining this lawful assembly, independent of his personal faults, deserve the highest censures of the church. It is well known, that the church of Scotland has been in the practice of excommunicating papists, and persons disobedient to the discipline of the church, from partaking of the holy communion; and seeing the bishops are guilty in both these respects, why should not that high censure be inflicted upon them? What a reverend father (Mr. Andrew Melvill) said, with respect to archbishop Adamson, is equally applicable to these pretended bishops: ‘ The old serpent has stung them with such avarice, and swollen them with such exorbitant pride, domineering and tyrannical power, as threatens the destruction of the whole body, unless they be cut off.’ It seems indispensably necessary therefore, that this last mean be essayed; and let us pray to God to make his ordinance effectual for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
Having finished the process of the bishops, the assembly, at the close of their nineteenth session, resolved, “That the sentences of the bishops should be pronounced next day, by the moderator, in presence of the assembly, after preaching a sermon suited to the solemn occasion.” This part of the work Mr. Henderson undertook with great reluctance. It was in vain that he pled the great fatigue he had undergone, the multiplicity of affairs that distracted his attention, and the shortness of the time for preparation. No excuse would be admitted. Accordingly, after preaching from Psalm ex. 1. “The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool,” he caused an abstract of the evidence to be read for the satisfaction of the people, narrated the various steps taken by the assembly, pointed out the necessity of the measure, and the warrant they had in the word of God for carrying it into execution. He called over the names of the eight bishops of Scotland, and pronounced the sentences of excommunication and suspension, in such a dread and solemn manner, says one who was present, that the whole assembly felt the mingled emotions of pity, admiration, and awe.
On the following day, a petition from St. Andrew’s was presented to the assembly, praying that Mr. Henderson might be removed from Leuchars to that city. This was strongly opposed by the commissioners from Edinburgh, who insisted that he was their elected minister, and urged their privilege of transporting from any part of the kingdom. Mr. Henderson, who was averse to any removal, insisted, “That he was now too old a plant to take root in any other soil.” He had been at this time eighteen years minister, and appears to have been about fifty-three years of age. After a warm contest, which lasted two days, Edinburgh carried it by seventy-five votes, and Mr. Henderson submitted, on obtaining a promise, that, in case of ill health, or when the infirmities of old age should overtake him, he should be allowed a country charge.
When the assembly had finished their business, Mr. Henderson addressed them in a speech of considerable length, of which we can only present the reader with an outline, the substance of which may be seen in Stevenson’s History. He modestly apologized for his deficiencies in discharging the duties of the situation in which they had placed him, and thanked the assembly for rendering his task so easy, by the praiseworthy manner in which, through the whole of their arduous labors, they had all conducted themselves. He exhorted them to consider the wonderful goodness of God to the church and kingdom of Scotland, both in the days of their fathers, and in latter times, when their adversaries were the head, and they only the tail, and especially his glorious appearance in their behalf on the present memorable occasion, when he has delivered us from the galling yoke, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear. “Now (said he), in his abundant mercy and loving kindness he has delivered us from the Service book, which was a book of slavery; from the book of Canons, which tied us down in chains of spiritual bondage; from the book of Ordination, which was a yoke of unsupportable weight on the necks of all faithful ministers; from the high commission, which was the watchful guardian that kept us under all that slavery; and the civil places of churchmen, the capital that ornamented the unhallowed structure, adding a glare of splendor to all these abominations. Seeing, therefore, that our God has thus kindly dealt with us, turning our sorrow into rejoicing, and our sackcloth into the garments of praise, leading captivity captive, and’ making our lordly oppressors incapable of further oppression, it behoves us, in gratitude to God, and consciousness of that liberty wherewith Christ hath made Ws people free, to hold fast that whereunto we have attained, and not be again entangled in the yoke of bondage. A courtier once degraded, you all know, but rarely regains his credit; and this especially holds true in spiritual concerns. I grant, the Lord can give eyes to the blind, and raise the dead, of which we are witnesses this day, having ourselves been brought back to the Shepherd of our souls, after running far on in a course of backsliding. But take heed to yourselves, and beware, I beseech you, of a second defection. I grant the cross is hard/o look upon; but if we get strength from our Lord, it will be an easy yoke. He has promised sufficiency of grace, let us therefore endure the greatest extremity, rather than again put our necks under this yoke of debasing slavery. Remember the plague of Laodicea, and beware of her sin. Concerning the nobles, barons, and burgesses, who have attended here, I must say, and can say it in all the confidence of the word of truth, them who honor God, God will honor. Those nobles, said he, whose hearts the Lord hath moved to be the chief instruments in this great work, like the tops of the mountains, were first discovered in this deluge; which encouraged the vallies to hope, that these waters of affliction would also be removed from them; which hope we have all seen realized this day. A few years ago, he would have been thought a foolish man who expected such things from our nobles as we now see; but our Lord has nobilitated them, so that they have taken part in all our trials, and had a principal hand in all the conclusions which we have brought to pass, and their liberality hath abounded to many on this occasion. The Sun of Righteousness has shined on these mountains, and long, long may he continue to shine upon them, for the comfort of the hills, and refreshing of the vallies. May the blessing of God rest upon them and their families, and we trust it will be so seen to after generations.” He recommended a favorable construction of his majesty’s opposition to the measures they had been engaged in forwarding, expressed his grateful sense of the harmony that had so conspicuously distinguished the assembly during their long and ardent labors; and concluded, with gratefully acknowledging the generous and hospitable treatment the members of the assembly had received from the inhabitants of Glasgow, and the particular countenance and aid afforded them by their chief magistrate. Having concluded the business of this famous assembly by prayer, he sung the cxxxiii. Psalm, and pronounced the apostolic benediction; and while the members were rising to depart, Mr. Henderson stood up, and said, “We have cast down the walls of Jericho; let him who attempts to rebuild them, beware of the curse of Hiel the Bethelite.”
In England, the covenanters, during the were actively employed in preparing for the threaten were Henderson’s pen was employed in several works that had been taken, as duty and necessity of defending the liberties and were with they are charged by the late proclamation in February 27th, 1639. This paper, after being revised the deputies! was industriously circulated in England by their friends, and proved very advantageous to then’ cause in that country He also drew up instructions for defensive arms. That paper he composed, it is said, rather against his maculation; and being hastily drawn up, he did not allow it to be printed. It was, nevertheless, read from many a pulpit as the work of one of their best penmen. The magnanimity of the Scotch, and the indifference of the English nation, for the royal cause, forced his majesty to listen to overtures of peace, and Mr. Henderson was appointed one of the commissioners for the Scotch army, to carry on the treaty of pacification, in June 1639. The king was much delighted with Mr. Henderson’s discourse, who, during the whole of that long protracted business, displayed his rare abilities, as on all other important occasions.
Mr. Henderson was one of the fourteen chief persons, amongst the covenanters, who were required, by an order from the king, to attend his court at Berwick, after the Scotch army had been disbanded. According to bishop Guthrie, the king wished to consult them as to the manner of his coming into Scotland to hold the assembly and parliament in person. Bishop Burnet says, “He meant to try what effect fair treatment would have upon his refractory subjects in Scotland.” But Sir James Balfour, Lion king at arms, expressly tells us, “That it was a trap laid to ensnare the principal men of the covenanting party, resorted to by the advice of some corrupt courtier, and that it was by a hint of their danger from some friend at court that they escaped from the snare.” Be this as it may, in consequence of an alarm, circulated to this effect, they were stopped at the Watergate of Edinburgh, when setting out for Berwick, their horses taken from them by the populace, and they were prevented from proceeding; nor did they, after due deliberation, judge it prudent to resume their journey. This disappointment greatly offended his majesty, who, without waiting the meeting of either assembly or parliament, set out for London, in a fit of chagrin, on the 29th of July.
At the opening of the general assembly, which met at Edinburgh on the 12th of August this year, 1639, Mr. Henderson, the former moderator, preached from Acts v. 33. Towards the conclusion of his discourse, he addressed the earl of Traquhair, the king’s commissioner, to the following effect: “We beseech your grace (said he) to see that Caesar have his own; but let him have nothing that belongs to God, by whom king’s reign. God hath exalted your grace within these few years, and he is still continuing to exalt you more and more. Be thankful for these special marks of his favor, and labor to exalt Christ’s throne. Some men have been exalted like Hainan, some like Mordecai, and I pray God that these eminent parts, wherewith he has endowed your grace, may be exercised for the glory of God, the honor of the king, and the real advantage of this church arid nation.” To the members of the assembly, he said, “Right honorable, worshipful, and reverend, the cause in which you are now embarked, and for the promotion of which you are now assembled together, is the cause of Christ, the cause of common justice between our liege lord the king, and his dutiful subjects. In such a good cause, it becomes you to proceed with all the fervor of a well tempered zeal, so mingled with moderation, that presbytery, the government we contend for in the church, may appear to the world in every respect consistent with monarchy in the state, that thereby we may obtain the favor of our king, and our Redeemer retain the untarnished honor of his regal crown.” The royal commissioner was anxious that Mr. Henderson should be reelected; but whether from a sense of his qualifications for filling the office, or to answer some end of his royal master, cannot be easily ascertained; only the assembly were suspicious of the latter, and vigorously opposed the motion of the commissioner, as favoring too much the idea of a constant moderator, which had always been the first step towards the introduction of episcopacy; and none discovered a greater aversion to the proposal than Mr. Henderson himself.
Mr. David Dickson, minister of Irvine, was chosen moderator by a great majority. Bishop Guthrie says, “That Mr. Dickson was much inferior to his predecessor in that office, and that he must have been still more embarrassed, had not Mr. Henderson been placed at his elbow as his coadjutor.” Whether the bishop has fairly represented the case or not, it shows that Mr. Henderson’s abilities were respected even by the Episcopalians themselves. In this assembly the whole framework of episcopacy was condemned. The royal commissioner required the assembly to state the grounds of this condemnation; which was done by the moderator, Mr. Henderson and Mr. Andrew Ramsay, who shewed, from the history of the primitive churches, as well as from the Holy Scriptures, that Prelatical superiority amongst the ministers of Christ was utterly unknown in the first ages of Christianity; that it had ever been destructive of that simplicity of government recommended by Christ, and adhered to by his followers for several centuries; and that it was merely a human invention, and had frequently been used for the introduction of popery, Arminianism, superstition, and idolatry. It was moved by Mr. Henderson, that the assembly should take into their consideration the propriety of drawing up a confession, positively condemning the errors and immoralities charged against some ministers, and clearing the doctrine of the church of Scotland, that none might afterwards pretend ignorance. The synod of Dort took this method with the Arminians; and the assembly, on this occasion, agreed to Mr. Henderson’s motion; but if ever the object was carried into effect, the report has not reached us. Mr. Henderson preached the sermon at opening the parliament, August 31st, 1639, from 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2, 3. wherein he principally dwelt on the utility, importance, and necessity of magistracy.
The town council of Edinburgh, who were the patrons and governors of the university of that city, having but annually visited that seat of learning during the preceding twenty-five years, the rector had become remiss ill discharging the duties which that office imposed upon him. The council therefore, taking the matter under their consideration, came to the resolution of annually choosing a rector, whose powers of office should be pointed out by articles framed for the purpose. In accordance with this resolution, they made choice of Mr. Henderson, then one of the ministers of that city, for rector of the university, and ordained that a silver mace should be borne before him on all solemnities, appointing certain members of the council, ministers of the city, and professors in the college, for his assessors. When the war was again renewed against the Scots, and they declared rebels, every regiment was attended by a chaplain, one of the most eminent ministers in the bounds where the regiment was raised; amongst these were Messrs Henderson, Blair, Baillie, Cant, Livingston, Gillespie, and others, who were vested with Presbyterian authority, and were to perform every part of their ministerial duties proper in such circumstances. In the beginning of August 1640, the army arrived at Dunse, where they were reviewed by the general, and marched into England on the 20th of the same month. Not withstanding these warlike measures, the covenanters still used the most loyal and submissive language, declaring that they entered England with no other view than to obtain access to the king’s presence, and lay their grievances at his majesty’s feet. The English, however, disbelieved them, and disputed the passage of the river, some miles above Newcastle, by a detachment of 4,500 men, commanded by Conway. The Scots first civilly, entreated them not to prevent them from approaching their gracious sovereign; but could not prevail; on which they attacked them with great bravery, killed some, and drove the rest from their ground, on the 28th of August the same year. On the rumor of this defeat, the whole English army left Newcastle, and fled to Durham; and not yet thinking themselves sufficiently safe, retreated to Yorkshire. The Scotch army took possession of Newcastle; and though sufficiently elated, they preserved strict discipline, and persevered in their resolution to pay for every thing, in order to maintain the appearance of an amicable correspondence with England. The nation was now universally and greatly discontented; so that the success of the Scottish army, and the distressed condition of the king, induced him a second time to accede to proposals of peace; when a treaty for this purpose was begun at Rippon, and afterwards transferred to London. Mr. Henderson was appointed one of the commissioners for this treaty, by whose means the foundation was laid of that conjunction between the two nations, both in civil and religious affairs, which was afterwards confirmed by the solemnity of an oath.
The Scottish commissioners urged the propriety of a unity in religion, and a uniformity in church government, as an especial mean of preserving and perpetuating peace between the two kingdoms; and at the same time delivered to the English commissioners a paper, said to be drawn up by Mr. Henderson, clearly stating the reasons for, and the obvious advantages that would naturally result from such a necessary measure. A favorable answer was given to this document, both by king and parliament, intimating in general, that as the parliament had already taken into consideration the reformation of the government of the church, so they would, in due time, proceed with that affair, so as it should appear most conducive to the glory of God, the peace of the church, and to both kingdoms. This was afterwards ratified as one of the articles of the treaty.
The Scottish commissioners had every advantage in conducting their treaty. They were lodged in the city, and had an intimate correspondence with the magistrates, the citizens, and the popular leaders in both Houses of Parliament. While attending on the duties of his commission, respecting the treaty of peace, Mr. Henderson was often employed in preaching for one or other of the London ministers, both on the Sabbath, and other days, besides preparing some very important tracts for the press. At the desire of the English ministers, he wrote, reasons why the bishops should be removed from the church. This treatise was printed in 1641. The polishing of many important papers was confided to Mr. Henderson, and he composed the far greater part of those concerned with the church. While in London, he had a private conference with the king, the particular object of which was to procure, from the rents formerly appropriated by the bishops, some assistance to the much-neglected universities in Scotland. He was well received, and had reason to expect something would be done for their relief. Towards the end of July 1641 he returned to Scotland. The general assembly met at St. Andrew’s on the. 20th of the same month; and at the request of the parliament, who were then sitting in Edinburgh, they removed to that city, where Mr. Henderson was chosen moderator.
From the observations he was enabled to make while in England, in consequence of his familiarity with both ministers and people, he clearly perceived that there would soon be an important change in the structure of the church, and that there was a considerable prospect of their approaching to a nearer conformity to the order of the church of Scotland; and in his capacity of commissioner to the above treaty, he labored strenuously to promote that conformity. With this important object in view, he very seasonably moved, in the general assembly, that a confession of faith, a catechism, a directory for all the parts of public worship, and a platform of church government should be drawn up; to which the church of England might probably afterwards agree. The motion was unanimously agreed to, and the burden of the labor laid on the shoulders of the mover. Liberty was given him, however, to desist from preaching while engaged in this important business, and power to call the assistance of such ministers as he thought proper to assist him in forwarding the work. The king revisited Scotland in this year 1641, that he might be present at the parliament of his native kingdom, leaving both Houses of the English parliament sitting at Westminster. He was shut up to the necessity of cultivating a closer connection with the Scottish nation, for the support of his tottering throne. Mr. Henderson waited on his majesty as his chaplain, and was appointed to provide preachers for him during the time he remained in the country. His majesty, on this occasion, so conducted himself, that the people were beginning to entertain hopes that henceforth he would rather encourage than oppose the reformation then in forwardness; but they were little acquainted with his true character. The last day of the meeting of this parliament was attended with great solemnity. The king, seated on his throne, and the estates all arranged in their respective places, Mr. Henderson began with prayer, and closed the meeting with a sermon.
The revenues of the bishoprics were divided at this time, and Mr. Henderson exerted himself in behalf of the universities; and by his influence, procured, with great difficulty, what belonged to the bishopric of Edinburgh, and priory for the university of that city. The emoluments belonging to the chapel royal, amounting to four thousand merks yearly, were, at this time, conferred upon him as a recompense for his painful and expensive services in the cause of the public. The king was, in general, very accommodating and favorable to the nation on this visit, anxious to obtain their assistance against his English parliament, with whom he was at great variance. Argyle was created a marquis, the lords London and Lindsay were raised to the dignity of earls, and all parties were so well pleased, that on the king’s departure, it was said, he departed a contented king from a contented people. But duplicity strongly marked his character; so that those who knew him best, put no faith in his apparent reformation, and therefore joined with the English parliament for the recovery of their liberty, and securing their religion. Mr. Henderson was much engaged in managing the correspondence with England during 1642, particularly that relating to reformation and uniformity in religion.
Upon the resolution of the English parliament to abolish episcopacy, they requested that some of the Scottish divines should be sent to London to assist in a synod which they had resolved to convene; and Mr. Henderson, with three others, were appointed commissioners to that assembly, and ordered to hold themselves in readiness to remove to England as soon as it became necessary. This journey, owing to the civil war in England, was for some time deferred. Mr. Henderson was anxious that the contending parties would come to some honorable accommodation of their differences; and for this purpose, joined with a number of leading men, in an invitation to the queen to come into Scotland, with the view of promoting a mediation; but the king rejected this well meant proposal. Mr. Henderson afterwards went in person to the king, and, together with other commissioners from the state, offered the mediation of the “Scottish nation. But their assistance in subjecting the English parliament was the object that lay nearest the king’s heart at this time; so that their mission was scouted, and their reception unfavorable. Their powers of interference with the internal dissensions of the English nation were called in question, and the religious uniformity, which they proposed as the only specific for cementing the jarring interests of both kingdoms in general, and of the contending parties of England in particular, his majesty did not relish, and, in the present state of his affairs, could by no means condescend to admit. The commissioners were accordingly reviled and threatened by the royalists, and recalled by the nation in disgust. At the first interview, the king endeavored to convince Mr. Henderson of the justice and necessity of his appeal to arms; but finding him less credulous than he had expected, his behavior was at once transformed from that of the complacent monarch, to a frowning and disappointed despot. While remaining at Oxford, some of the doctors wished to dispute with him on church government; but judging it unbecoming the character of a representative of the church of Scotland to dispute with a .private individual, and viewing them rather disposed to cavil than to give or receive information, he signified, that his business in England was with the king. Dr. Taylor, a papist, also challenged him to a public dispute at Oxford; so insolent were the papists now become through the royal favor. Lord Clarendon is greatly offended at the firmness, or, as he calls it, the great insolence manifested, by Mr. Henderson on this occasion. But on his return to Edinburgh, where he gave a full account of his proceedings with the king to the commissioners of the church, they expressed their entire satisfaction with his whole conduct; and their judgment was confirmed by the next general assembly, who pronounced his carriage to have been faithful and wise.
The Scottish nation were highly displeased with the treatment their commissioners had met with at Oxford; and fully convinced, that the king’s measures were directed against the liberty of both kingdoms, civil as well as religious, they formed an alliance with the English parliament—upon which Mr. Henderson was sent to London, where he remained the greater part of his remaining days.
The general assembly of the Church of Scotland, which met at Edinburgh on the 2d of August 1643, was distinguished by the presence of commissioners from the English parliament, the formation of the solemn league and covenant, and other transactions of memorable importance. Foreseeing the mass of business to be brought before them, and discussed in the presence of so many learned and honorable strangers, the first care of the assembly was the choice of a well qualified moderator; and Mr. Henderson was unanimously called to the chair for the third time, and every thing conducted with the greatest decency and propriety. The English commission consisted of Sir William Armyn, Sir Henry Vane, younger, Mr. Hatcher, and Mr. Darley; with two ministers of the gospel, Messrs Philip Nye and Stephen Marshall. After an introductory speech, said to have been drawn up by Mr. Nye and Sir Henry Vane, the delegation presented their commission from both Houses of the English parliament, with ample powers to them, or any four of them, to treat with the covenanters. They likewise presented a declaration of both Houses to the assembly, showing the care they had taken in reforming the church, and expressing their desire that some of the Scottish divines should join with their assembly for that purpose. The royal arms being at this time triumphant, the parliament of England solicited the fraternal assistance of the covenanters, and a covenant was proposed. The English at first were for a civil league, and the Scotch for a religious covenant; which was ultimately agreed to, and Mr. Henderson was appointed to set off for London immediately to ratify this solemn deed. He sailed from Leith on the 30th of August, in company with other commissioners, and, on the 25th of September, the covenant was sworn by the members of the House of Commons and the assembly of divines, in Margaret’s church at Westminster; on which occasion Mr. Henderson delivered an excellent speech, to the following effect: “Honorable, reverend, and beloved in the Lord, Though the time be far spent, yet am I bold to crave your patience and attention for a little. Were we altogether to hold our peace on such an important occasion as this, we could neither be answerable to our God, whose work and cause we are assembled to promote, to this church and kingdom, to which we have made so warm professions of regard, nor to our native kingdom, so abundant in her affection towards you, and the cause you have so laudably undertaken to defend, neither indeed to our own hearts, which exceedingly rejoice to see this day. We have greater reason than the lepers, sitting at the gate of Samaria, to say, ‘ We do not well, this is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace.’ It is true, the Assyrians are not yet fled; but our hopes, through God, are, that the work this day begun, if sincerely engaged in, and faithfully maintained, will be the means of not merely putting to flight these Syrians and Babylonians, but all others inimical to the cause of God, the honor of the king, and the liberty, peace, and prosperity of these distracted kingdoms. For whatever be the situation in which the people of God are placed, whether in adversity and sorrow, before their deliverance come, or of prosperity, joy, and thanksgiving after, still they are welcome applicants at his throne; and their joining together in covenant with God, and one another, on such extraordinary occasions, is what he expects at their hands—what his people have been accustomed to perform in all ages of the church, and that with which he has been so well pleased, that he has blessed it, and made it the means of their deliverance from the power of their enemies on many a pressing occasion. When a people begin to forget God, and go a whoring after strange gods, he lifts up his hand to punish their wanderings from the rectitude of his law, from the simplicity of his ordinances, and the purity of his worship; but when they lift up their hands, not only in supplicating the throne of mercy, but also in covenanting before the most high God, he is pleased (such is his mercy and wonderful condescension) to lift up his hand unto them, saying, ‘ I am the Lord your God,’ as we have it three times expressed in two verses of the twentieth chapter of Ezekiel, and then stretched he out his omnipotent arm to punish his and their enemies. To join ourselves to God, in a covenant never to be departed from, is the best work of faith. To join ourselves in covenant to God and one another, is the best work of love and Christian communion. To join in covenant for the reformation of religion, is the very best work of the best zeal. The best proof of true loyalty, is to join in covenant for the preservation of our king and the constitutional liberty and laws of our native country; and such as withdraw from this necessary work, and refuse to enter into covenant for such important purposes, have reason to enter into their own hearts, and examine the reality of their, faith, and the sincerity of their love, loyalty, and natural affection.
“As this duty is acceptable to God, so has it been the practice of his church and people, not only under the Old, but also under the New Testament; nor merely in the primitive ages of Christianity, but also by the late reformed churches of Germany and the Low Countries, and likewise by our own noble and Christian progenitors, when their religion and civil liberties were endangered by the power and influence of antichrist. The great defect attending their endeavors, however, was, that they did not proceed to the full extent warranted by the word of truth; which, had they done, the corruptions and calamities of these times might have been greatly prevented. To fill up what was wanting in our forefathers, has, however, been reserved for the honor and happiness of us their children; and if the Lord shall be pleased to move, to loose, and enlarge the hearts of his people, in his majesty’s dominions, to take this covenant, not in lukewarmness or dissimulation, but as becometh the people of God, it will prove the means of preventing many heartrending scenes of misery, and be a copious source of rich and numerous blessings, both spiritual and temporal, to ourselves, our little ones, and their posterity, to many generations.
“The near and neighboring example of the church and kingdom of Scotland, is, in this case, worthy of our particular observation. When the prelates in that kingdom, by their rents and lordly dignities, by their exorbitant power over all sorts of his majesty’s subjects, ministers, and even magistrates; by their places in parliament, council, college of justice, exchequer, and high commission, had grown to such enormous dominion and greatness, that, like giants, they set their one foot on the neck of the church, and the other on the neck of the state, and, with unparalleled insolence and effrontery, trampled upon the rights of the nation, in defiance of reason, religion, or law, till the people groaned beneath the unsupportable weight of their oppression; so that they chose rather to die than live in a state of such inhuman debasement, or to live in any part of the world rather than in the land that gave them birth. Then did the Lord arise, and say, ‘ I have seen, I have seen the afflictions of my people—I have heard their groanings, and I am come down to deliver them.’ The beginnings were small and contemptible in the eyes of their proud and presumptuous enemies, such indeed as used to be the beginnings of God’s greatest works; but followed up by indubitable evidences of divine direction, they were led from one step to another, till their mountain became strong. No tongue can express what emotions filled the hearts, what tears of joy poured from the eyes, and what expressions of wonder and amazement fell from the lips of thousands in that distressed laud, when they found an unwonted flame warming their dejected bosoms, and perceived the power of almighty God raising them, as it were, from the dead, and creating for them a new world, wherein should dwell truth, religion, and righteousness.
“When destitute both of money and munition, which, next to the spirit and arms of men, are the undoubted sinews of war, the Lord supplied them out of his hid treasures; which was wonderful in their own eyes, and matter of astonishment to their enemies. When they were many times at a pause in their deliberations, and so perplexed that they knew not what to choose or refuse, only, that their eyes were towards God, not only the fears and fury, but even the plots and policy of their adversaries pointed their way; so that the devices of their enemies, recoiled on their own heads, and served to accelerate the work of God. The purity of their intentions, elevated above all earthly considerations, and the conscious rectitude and peace of their; hearts, supported them against the malicious accusations, aspersions, and misrepresentations of their enraged enemies; all which were sensible manifestations of the good providence of God, and legible characters of his favorable interference;— such as the church and kingdom of England, exercised at this time with still greater difficulties, have already found in part, and shall undoubtedly find completed, to their great satisfaction in the faithful prosecution of the work now before us. Necessity; which possesseth a kind of sovereignty, that raiseth it above all. law, and is therefore said to have no law, does mightily press upon the church and kingdom of Scotland at the present time. It is no small comfort, however, that they have neither been idle nor unconcerned at the dangers that threatened their own, or the church and kingdom of England; but have used all good and lawful expedients to extinguish the flaming combustion that rages in this kingdom, by their supplications, remonstrances, and declarations to his majesty; and after all these means were found ineffectual, by sending commissioners to his majesty, humbly offering their mediation in restoring order and tranquility. But their humble offer of service has been rejected, on the ground that they had no warrant or capacity for such an interference, and that the intermixture of the government of the church of England, with that of the state, was a mystery of which they could be no competent judges. The fact, however, that the eighth demand of the treaty, and the answer given to that demand, with respect to the uniformity of religion, evidently afforded them a full and sufficient ground of capacity; while the proceedings of both Houses of Ms Parliament, against Episcopal government, wherein it was declared a stumbling block, lying in the path of church reformation, and equally prejudicial to the best interests of the state, sufficiently furnished them with all the necessary means of information. But notwithstanding that these, and many other arguments, were stated in answer to their pretended reasons of objection, our commissioners were insulted, and recalled by a disgusted nation, without effecting any part of their pacific mission. In the meantime, the miseries of Ireland, the distresses of England, and the dangers and pressure upon the kingdom of Scotland, were daily accumulating, while his majesty had refused to call or suffer a parliament to be called. In this state of fear and perplexity, those entrusted with the public concerns of the kingdom, found themselves under the necessity of reverting to the practice of former times, by calling a convention of the estates, for considering the disorders of the country, and applying the most ostensible remedies.
“This convention were scarcely met together, when, by the good providence of God, several plots and conspiracies of the papists, in different parts of the three kingdoms, were discovered and laid before them; and by the same good providence, commissioners were sent from both Houses of this Parliament, to consider, with the estates of the kingdom of Scotland, such articles and propositions as might render the conjunction between the two nations more beneficial and effectual in securing religion and liberty against the attempts of papists and prelates, with their numerous train of adherents. Their consultations with the general assembly, at this time, brought forth a covenant; and considering this the only remaining remedy, after every thing else had been essayed in vain, they yielded to the manifold necessity, which nature, religion, loyalty, and love, had imposed upon them.
“Nor is it unknown in this honorable, reverend, and wise audience, what errors in doctrine, what superstition in worship, what usurpation and intolerable tyranny in government, and what cruelty has been set on foot, exercised, and executed against both the souls and bodies of the saints, for many generations, and now again stimulated by the rising expectations of the church of Rome; all which, we sincerely hope, and are persuaded, by the blessing, of God on the solemn work of this day, will soon be arrested in, its mad career of malignity, and the disciples of Jesus permitted to lead quiet and peaceable lives, in all godliness and honesty. Had the pope of Rome the knowledge of what is going forward this day in England, and were this covenant written on the plaster of the wall over against him where he sits, Belshazzar-like, surrounded with his minions, in sacrilegious splendor—his heart would tremble within him, his countenance grow pale, the mitre would shake on his head, and his knees smite one against another; while his prelates and cardinals, the agents of his heaven-daring arrogance, would stand transfixed in dumb amazement and motionless astonishment.
“The reformed churches, who, by their letters, have been exciting us to Christian communion, sympathy, and the united, defense of our common religion, when they shall hear of our blessed conjunction, our uniform religion, and our united exertions in its defense—it will revive their drooping and desponding souls, dispel the fears and gloomy apprehensions that oppress their spirits, and be to them the happy commencement of a jubilee, and joyful deliverance from the power and accursed yoke of antichristian tyranny. From these, and similar considerations, we are very confident that the church and kingdom of Scotland will most cheerfully join in this solemn covenant, at the first motion of which their bowels were moved within them. And that we may give testimony to this our confidence, we, who are commissioners from the general assembly, although we have no particular and express commission to, that effect (not, however, for want of willingness, but for want of foresight), willingly offer to join it with our whole hearts arid: hands, in the confident assurance, that the Lord, in his own time, in spite of all opposition from earth or hell, will crown it with a blessing from heaven: That it .is agreeable to the word of God, and sanctioned by the church, both in the Old and the New Economy of Grace, you have seen resolved by the consent and testimony of a reverend assembly of godly, learned, and great divines; and as the word of God, so the prayers of the people of God, in all the reformed churches, are in our behalf. It were more terrible than an host of armed papists, to hear that there were many fervent supplications poured out. to God against our proceedings. There are, indeed, blasphemies, curses, and horrid imprecations, in great abundance, from another quarter, leveled against our proceedings; but if God be with us, who can hope to succeed in opposing the promising operation of this solemn transaction: That divine providence, which hath hitherto maintained this cause, and supported his servants in promoting it, and hath kept matters in an equal balance and alternate success, will, we trust, from this day forth, cast the balance through the weight of this covenant; so that religion and righteousness shall prevail, to the glory of God, the honor of the king, the confusion of the enemies of the truth, and the comfort and safety of the people of God; all which may HE grant, who is able to do exceedingly above and beyond what we can either ask or conceive.”
Mr. Henderson having concluded his speech, Mr. Nye, who had been appointed by the assembly to read the oath and covenant to the intending covenanters, began with an impressive exhortation—which, as it has been greatly admired, and being so intimately connected with the solemnity of this memorable transaction, we present it to the reader at large.
“A great and solemn work, honorable and reverend, has’ this day been put into our bands. It becomes us, therefore, to stir up and awaken our hearts to its magnitude and importance. Here we have to deal with God as well as with men, and with God in his greatness and excellency; for by him we swear. We have, at the same time, to deal with God in his goodness and tender compassion, who now stretcheth out a strong and seasonable arm for our assistance. We are met together this day, to exalt and acknowledge him who is fearful in praises; to swear by that name which alone is holy and reverend; to enter into a covenant and league never to be forgotten by us, nor by our posterity; and such an oath, as, for the matter of it, the persons concerned, and the circumstances attending it, has not been in any age of which we read, either in sacred or human story, yet sufficiently warranted in both; and I trust the fruits and blessed consequences of this solemn transaction shall be so abundant, that the present and many succeeding generations will have cause to remember it with unspeakable joy.
“The persons engaging in this league are three kingdoms, famous for the knowledge and the acknowledgment of Christ above all the kingdoms of the world. To swear before such a presence, should mould the spirit of a man, one would think, into a great deal of reverence; but how much more to be engaged, to be incorporated, and that by the solemnity of an oath, with such an high and honorable fraternity. An oath is to be esteemed so much the more solemn, by how much greater the persons are who swear. As in heaven, when God swears to his Son; on earth, when kings swear to one another; so in the business before us, where three kingdoms, in the presence of God, angels, and men, mutually bind themselves (o God and one another—how great, how sacred must be the obligation?
“And as the solemnity of an oath is to be measured by the character of the persons swearing, so also by the matter sworn to. God would not swear to the covenant of works. It was not to continue, and he would not honor it with his oath. But to the covenant of grace, which is the gospel, he swears, and repents not. He swears for the salvation of men and of kingdoms. And if kingdoms swear to God, and one another, what oath can better become them than one for their respective preservation and salvation, by establishing amongst them the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who is a mediator for kingdoms as well as for individuals?
“As the oath itself, and the matters sworn to, are both great and honorable, so also is the end and purpose of these great, these honorable transactions. Two are better than one, saith he, who best knoweth what is best, and from whom every thing hath its goodness and utility. Association is the offspring of divine wisdom, not only the formation of creatures, but their’ classification also; the cluster, as well as the grape, are the kings of him, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. Concord and harmony among men, and especially among’ the saints, are highly pleasing in the sight of God; and if the1 united resolves of two or three, who meet in the name of Christ, shall be confirmed in heaven, how much more when two or three kingdoms meet together, and consent in his name, that God may be one, and his name one amongst them, and that his presence may be in the midst of them. That churches and kingdoms are near to God, and dear in his sight, his patience towards them, and his compassion over them more than individuals, sufficiently testify. But kingdoms, voluntarily engaging themselves for his kingdom, for his saints and subjects, for the purity of his religion, his worship and government, and with all humility sitting at his feet to receive the law from his mouth— What a price does he set upon such kingdoms, especially when sensible of their weakness and infirmity, of their unfaithful hearts, lest they should be unsteadfast with their God, and start from his cause whenever they feel the knife or the fire! They bind themselves, as we do this day, a willing sacrifice, with cords, to the horns of the altar. What is the import of this solemn engagement? What is it we vow? Is it not, that we endeavor, so far as the Lord shall assist us by his grace, to preserve religion where it is reformed, and promote reformation where it is necessary? Is it not the reformation of three kingdoms? A reformation universal in respect of doctrine, discipline, and worship, in whatsoever the word of God shall discover unto us— and an endeavor, in our several capacities, to advance the Redeemer’s kingdom here upon earth, that Jerusalem may yet become, notwithstanding the contradiction of men, the praise of the whole earth? To practice, is a fruit of love; to reform a fruit of zeal; but so to reform will require great prudence and circumspection in each of these churches. The reformation of religion must be conducted according to God’s word, the best rule—and according to the best reformed churches, the best interpreters of this rule. If England has attained to any greater perfection in handling the word of righteousness, and the doctrine that is according to godliness, so as it make men more godly and more righteous; or if, in the churches of Scotland, there be any more light and beauty in matters of order and discipline, whereby their assemblies are more orderly; or if to any other church or individual it has been given, better to have learned Christ, in any of his ways, than any or all of us—we shall humbly bow, and kiss their lips, that can speak right words to us in this matter, and help us to the nearest conformity to the word and mind of Christ in this great work of reformation.
“Honorable and reverend brethren, There cannot be a more direct and effectual way to exhort and persuade the wise, and men of serious spirits, such as. they to whom I am commanded to speak on this occasion, than to let into their understandings the weight, the worth, and great importance of the work they have thus undertaken to perform. This oath, in the matter and consequences of it, is of such concernment, that I can truly say, it is worthy of us, it is worthy of all these kingdoms, yea, of all the kingdoms of the world; for it is swearing fealty and allegiance to the King of kings, and a giving up all these kingdoms, which are portions of his large inheritance, to be subdued more to his throne, and to be ruled more by his scepter, in the increase of whose government and peace there shall be no end. This we find, in its utmost accomplishment, to have been the oath of the angel, who, setting his feet on two of God’s kingdoms, the one on the sea, and the other on the earth, and lifting his hand towards heaven, as you are to do this day, so swearing, that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and that he shall reign for His oath regards the full accomplishment; ours the means ever and measures conducive to that glorious event.
“That which the apostles and primitive saints so long and devoutly prayed for; that which our fathers, in latter times, have fasted, prayed, and mourned after, but attained not; even the cause which many dear saints, now triumphing with their Redeemer in heavenly glory, promoted by sufferings the most extreme, poverty, imprisonment, banishment, and death, ever since the dawn of the reformation—that is the identical cause and work which, through the mercy of Jesus Christ, we are now assembled, not only to pray for, but to swear to. And surely it must be the answer and happy result of so many prayers and tears, of so much sincerity and suffering, that three kingdoms should be thus born in one day, and brought about to such an engagement, that nothing on earth can be greater; for to this end kings reign, kingdoms exist, and states and empires are upheld.”
“It is a special grace and favor of God, brethren, reverend and honorable, that he hath vouchsafed you an opportunity, and put it into your hearts, as this day, to embark your lives and estates in a cause so closely connected with his glory. And should you only lay the foundation stone of this great work, and thereby engage posterity to raise the superstructure, it were honor enough. But you are designed as master builders, and choice instruments for effecting a settled peace and thorough reformation in these kingdoms; which, if the Lord shall please to finish in your hands, a greater happiness on earth, or a greater means of augmenting your glory in heaven, you are not capable of; and let me add, for your further encouragement, that God has set his covenant like the heavens, not merely for duration, but also for extension. The heavens move, and roll about, and so communicate their light, and heat, and virtue, to all places and departments of the earth—such is this covenant . How much this solemn league and covenant may provoke other reformed churches to a farther reformation, and what light and heat it may communicate abroad to other parts of the world, is only for him to declare, whose inheritance is the uttermost ends of the earth, and whose almighty power can, from the smallest, and apparently the most inefficient means, produce the most astonishing results.
“But however this may be, one thing I am sure of, that this is a method of procedure, which, in all probability, will enable us to preserve and defend our religion and liberties against our common enemies, and perhaps a better foundation for overthrowing popery and prelacy—the chief of these enemies—will be laid this day, than has ever been resorted to by our fathers in any age of the church. With regard to popery, it has been a religion ever dexterous in fencing and mounting itself by joint strength and association. All its professors are cast into fraternities and brotherhoods; and these orders, carefully united, and bound together by vows one with another; even the1 states and kingdoms, which in this way they have bound to the papal throne, they endeavor to improve, and secure by strict combinations amongst themselves. Witness, of late years, their La sainte ligue, or holy league. Nay, the very rise of popery seems to have been effected in this way by kings; that is, kingdoms assenting and agreeing (perhaps by some joint covenant— the text says, with one mind— why not then with one mouth) to give their power to the beast, and make war against the Lamb— Where you also read, that the Lamb shall overcome them; and it may not be unworthy of your consideration, whether this triumph may not possibly be effected by the same weapons. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He can therefore unite kings and kingdoms, and by giving them one mind and one mouth, thus destroy the whore, and be her utter ruin. And may not this day’s work be the happy beginning of such a blessed termination.
“Prelacy, another common enemy that we covenant and swear against—What is it? or what has it been? but a subtle combination of the clergy, formed into a policy or body of their own invention, framing themselves into subordination and dependence on one another; so that the interest of each is improved by all, and a great power by these means acquired to themselves; of which we have lately had the woeful experience. The joints and members of this body, you all know, are knit together by the sacred engagement of an oath—the oath of canonical obedience, as they call it. You remember also with what cunning industry they endeavored lately to make this oath and covenant more subservient to their own interest, and that of their posterity, by rendering it a more public, solemn, and universal engagement, than this cause of theirs has ever been supported by since the days of popery; and had they succeeded in their purpose, Scotland and Ireland must unquestionably have been brought at last into this holy league with England. But blessed be God, and blessed be his good hand, the parliament that, from the indignation of their spirits against so horrid a yoke, have dashed out the very brains of this detestable project, and are now this day present before the Lord to receive this blessed ordinance, even an oath and covenant as solemn and as extensive as they intended theirs—uniting these three kingdoms in such a league and happy combination, as will doubtless preserve us and our reformation from their power and malignity, though the mystery of their iniquity should still continue working amongst us. Come, therefore, I speak in the words of the prophet, ‘ Let us join ourselves to the Lord, and one to another, and each to all, in a perpetual covenant never to be forgotten.’
“We are now entering upon a work of the first importance to us, and our posterity after us—a work in which the present and following generations are more deeply interested, than in any that has at any time been undertaken by us, or any of our progenitors before us, or by any of the nations around us.’ If the Lord shall be pleased to bless this our beginning, it will be1 a happy day, and we shall be a happy people. An oath is a duty of the first commandment, and therefore one of the noblest order and rank of duties, and ought to come’ forth attended with the choicest graces, especially with humility and reverential fear—fear, not merely of God, which we ought to possess in an eminent degree, but also the fear of an oath, which is “a most solemn duty, established by no less authority than the oath of God himself. ‘I have sworn (saith the Lord), that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear.’ Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac, as if he had coveted his father’s grace, as well as his father’s God; and this is the genuine character of a saint of God, he fears an oath. Humility is another requisite grace—Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and swear by his name. The apostle Paul was sensible of this engagement, even in the very act of his duty. c I call God to witness (says he), whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his ‘Son.’ Although it be a work of the lips,1 yet must the heart be engaged, and all the faculties of the soul interested in the performance, if we expect our services to ‘be acceptable to God. ‘ Accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, (saith the Psalmist), and teach me thy judgments/’1′ It must also be gone about in all the plainness, simplicity, and sincerity of our souls. In this solemn work we call God to witness, betwixt us and our brethren, with whom we covenant—God, the searcher of hearts, whose eye penetrates the darkest recesses of our souls, and in whose sight both the deceived and the deceiver stand naked and exposed. If our hearts be not right towards our brethren—with God is wisdom and strength; wisdom to discover our hypocrisy, and strength to punish it. There ought not to be so much as a wish or desire that the words of our covenant should become snares—no, not to the weakest of our brethren that join with us; they are to be considered as bonds of unity in prosecuting and defending this great and necessary work of reformation, as cords of love and social affection,’ to cheer up and encourage one another to every good work. On the whole, let the same fear and jealousy impress your spirits on this great occasion, which influenced Jacob in a very critical and important concern. ‘My Father (says he) peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver, and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.’
“I take the liberty more earnestly to press this caution upon your minds, because oaths and covenants have, on former occasions, been entered into, the fruit whereof, though great, yet came short of our expectation. The Lord hath surely been displeased; with the slight impression these solemn transactions made upon our hearts. ‘ Be more watchful, I beseech you, and stir up your ‘whole souls this day.” Consider, that as this is the last oath you are likely ever to take of this kind, .so is it our last refuge. If this last, remedy fail, through our, insincerity and unsteadfastness, we are likely to remain, to our dying day, an unhappy people; but if you will indeed swear with all your hearts, and seek the Lord with, your whole’ desire, God will be found, and give you rest from. all your enemies round about. But having, with due reverence, humility, plainness, and godly sincerity, sworn and entered into this solemn engagement to God and man, your work is by no means finished—you must make conscience of performing the various duties; this solemn transaction imposes upon you, otherwise it had been better not to have vowed, Eccl. v. As it is said of fasting, it is not the hanging down of the head for a day so of this solemn swearing, it is not the lifting up of the hand for a day, but an. honest endeavor to perform the requisitions of this covenant all our days. A truce breaker, you know, is classed among the vilest of Christians, Tim. iii. 3; so a covenant breaker is ranked with the worst of heathens, Rom.. i. 31—while be that sweareth, and changeth not, though the contents of his oath should prove even hurtful to his individual interest, such an one shall have his habitation with the most high, and dwell in .his tabernacle. And as for you, my reverend brethren: who are ministers of the gospel, there is yet another obligation especially imposed upon you. Let us take heed to ourselves, that our walk and conversation correspond; with this our covenant engagement. What a dishonorable reflection it must throw on the truth of the gospel, should we be found to waver and prove careless and lukewarm in any word, part, or purpose of; this our oath, were it even in matters of minor importance, you can: easily collect, from that apology of Paul, 2 Cor. i. 17,18; and how much more in such a case as this, should we be found to purpose, nay more, even to vow, covenant, and swear, and notwithstanding of all this, to start aside, fall back, or go on unbecomingly in this solemn undertaking! That we may all of us, who take the covenant this day, be constant and immoveable, always abounding? in this blessed work of the Lord, there is a: twofold grace or qualification indispensable, and to be earnestly sought after. 1st, We must get courage, and pursue the ends of our engagement, with our flexible resolution. It is said, in the prophecy of Haggai, that the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people, and they came and did work in the house of the Lord. The work of God’s house, reformation work in particular, has ever been a stirring work. Read the history of the church of God from the beginning, and you shall not find, in any age or country, that any significant reformation was at any time effected, either in doctrine or discipline, without great , stir and opposition. This was foretold by the same prophet, chap. ii. ver. 7. The promise is, he will fill his house with glory: But mark what goes before, in verse 6th, ‘Yet a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land’—denoting the nations of the earth, with all their diversified degrees of classification. The same place is applied, Heb. xii. to the removing of the Jewish rites, their ceremonial law, the movables of God’s house. In the apostles’ times, you will also find, that the gospel being preached, some believed, and some believed not. Hence the stir commences, verse 6th, Those who believed not, took unto themselves certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and having gathered a company, set all the city in an uproar, and then charged the brethren with the disturbance themselves had created. These are the men, say they, who turn the world upside down! In such a work, therefore, we have need of courageous, composed, and persevering spirits, that we may not be struck with fear and amazement at the noisy proceedings of our enemies; but by shaking off all drowsiness and timidity, press forward, with well directed exertions, unappalled by all the din, bluster, and opposition that may surround us. Nay, it is not impossible, that even amongst ourselves there may be outcries in abundance. ‘Sir, you will undo all (says one).’ ‘You will put every thing into confusion (says another).’ «If you proceed in this course (says a third), we can expect nothing but blood.’ But a wise statesman, like an experienced mariner, knows the compass of his vessel; and though it heave and be tossed by the wind and the waves, while the affrighted passengers cry out, all will be lost, still he keeps the possession of himself, attends to his proper work, and steers his course onward to the desired haven.
“If you are determined in your hearts to do any such work in the house of God as this, if you mean to pluck up what has many years ago been planted, to build up what was then cast down, and go through this difficult service with fearless intrepidity and unrelinquishing perseverance, you must pray the Lord of the house to furnish you with this excellent, this active and enterprising spirit, otherwise you will be out spirited by your opposers, and both yourselves, and the cause you have so warmly espoused, slighted and dishonored. On the other hand, our zeal must be tempered with prudence, and our resolution and activity mingled with gentleness and humility. A man may be very zealous in prosecuting a good cause, and at the same time both meek and merciful. Jesus Christ was both a Lion and a Lamb. He tells us, ‘ That he came to send fire on the earth;’ and on another occasion, he rebukes his disciples for their fiery spirit, saying, ‘ The Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save.’ Such also were the tempers and compositions of Moses and Paul; and similar dispositions will be found highly profitable to us in this work of reformation. I have never observed any disputes carried on with more bitterness and ill-natured animosity in men’s writings, nor with more unsanctified heat of spirit, yea, and by godly men too, than in those controversies relating to discipline, church government, and ceremonies. Surely to dispute concerning government with such ungoverned passions, and argue for reformation with a spirit so unreformed, is of all uncomely things the most uncomely. Let us be zealous, as Christ was, to cast out all, to extirpate and root out every plant that his heavenly Father hath not planted; and yet let this be effected in an orderly manner, and in the spirit of Christ, whose servants we are. For the servant of Christ must not strive, but be gentle to all men, apt to teach, and patient, in meekness instructing such as oppose, 2 Tim. ii. 24, 25. We solemnly engage this day to use our utmost endeavors for reformation; but let us remember, that too much heat, as well as too much coldness, in prosecuting this great undertaking, may harden men in their ways, and retard our progress in rectifying the disorders of the house of God.
“Brethren, let us proceed to this blessed work with such a frame of spirit, with such a mind for the present, and with such resolutions for the time to come. Let us not be wanting to the opportunity God has this day put into our hands, and then I can say with the prophet, ‘Consider this day and upwards, even from this day, that the foundation of the Lord’s work is laid—consider it; for from this day will I bless you, saith the Lord.’ Nay, we have received as it were the first fruits of this promise already. It is said of some men’s good works, that they are manifest beforehand; even so may it be said of the good work of this day. God hath as it were beforehand testified his acceptance. While we were thinking and proposing this freewill offering, he ‘was protecting’ and defending our army, causing our enemies, the “enemies of this good work, to flee before us, and has given us a victory by no means to be despised. Surely this oath and covenant shall be Judah’s joy, the joy and comfort of this whole kingdom,’ yea, of all the three kingdoms, and matter of rejoicing to all the reformed churches.
“O Jesus Christ, King of the saints, govern us by his Spirit, strengthen I us by his power, undertake for us according as he hath sworn, even the oath which he sware to our fathers, that he would grant unto us, that we, being delivered out of: the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our lives. Grant unto us also, that when we are gathered to our fathers, our children after us may stand up in the defense of this cause, and •enjoy its manifold blessings, that his great and reverend name may be r honored and exalted, till he himself shall come and perfect all. by his own wisdom and power. Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.”
Having thus concluded his exhortation, Mr. Nye read the form of the oath and covenant; which having done, all the members of the House of Commons, and those of the Assembly of Divines, stood up, with their right hands raised, and uncovered, while Mr. Nye, with great solemnity, again read over the form of the obligation; after which the solemn service of this remarkable day was concluded with prayer.
But we return to Mr. Henderson, who, as a member of the assembly, greatly distinguished himself by the solidity of his arguments in favor of a thorough .reformation; but particularly in pressing upon the members the beauty, order, and utility of a Presbyterian form of church government, to the establishment of which, his talents and exertions contributed no small degree. His deportment was grave, and well becoming the dignity of a representative of the church. He discovered a conscientious uprightness in all his designs, his opinions were therefore regarded with great deference, .and his influence was very .considerable. When it became: necessary to vindicate the; principles of the church of Scotland, or any of the reformed Presbyterian churches, he discovered, by his speeches, how well he understood their doctrine and discipline, and how able lie was to defend them; but his rare abilities were peculiarly displayed in reconciling contending interests,1 and maintaining harmony amongst the members. Being a thorough Presbyterian, nothing proposed in the assembly, at variance with that system, could pass without his determined opposition. Hence he stood equally opposed to Independency and Erastian supremacy, which were pressed on the assembly by men of the first talents and erudition, and greatly befriended by their respective parties in both Houses of Parliament.
In the beginning of the year 1645, Mr. Henderson was appointed, by the parliament, to assist their commissioners in the treaty .between them and the king at Uxbridge. The parliamentary commissioners were instructed to demand the abolition of episcopacy, and the ratification of the Presbyterian church government. The king’s commissioners opposed this demand; upon which it was agreed to hear the divines on both sides. Mr. Henderson opened the proceedings in a speech, which even Lord Clarendon acknowledges was not destitute of eloquence. He took up the ground which he conceived was best calculated for bringing the dispute to an early conclusion, and waving the lawfulness of episcopacy, he said, “,The question before them was, not whether Episcopal government was lawful, but whether it was so necessary that Christianity could not subsist without it?” He argued that it was not, and that such an affirmation could not be made without condemning all other reformed churches: That the English parliament had found episcopacy a very inconvenient and corrupt government: That the hierarchy had been a public grievance from the reformation downwards: That the bishops had always encouraged popery, and had retained many of her superstitious rites and customs in their worship and government; and that they had lately made an obvious approximation to the Romish communion, to the great scandal of the protestant churches of Germany, France, Scotland, and Holland: That the prelates had embroiled the whole of the British islands, and kindled the flame which then raged throughout the three kingdoms: That for these reasons, the parliament had resolved to change this inconvenient and mischief making government, and set up another, more naturally formed for the promotion of piety and Christian fellowship, in its place; and that this proposed alteration was the best expedient that could be resorted to, for extinguishing the remains of popery, and uniting the protestant churches and states in Christian amity, and in the defense of their religious principles and civil rights; nor could he conceive how his majesty’s conscience should feel opposed to such a salutary measure, after having already agreed to the suppression of prelacy in his kingdom of Scotland.
But the advocates for episcopacy, aware that this plain mode of reasoning, adapted to the understanding of every person possessed of ordinary good sense, would be too easily comprehended by the people, they would not therefore hazard their cause upon such doubtful ground, but endeavored to involve the questioning in a maze of learned obscurity, by introducing a general dispute respecting Episcopal government. Dr. Stuart, the king’s commissioner on the part of the church of England, enlarged on the Apostolical institution of episcopacy, and endeavored to prove, that without bishops the sacerdotal character could not be conveyed, nor the sacraments administered to any significancy—desiring, at the same time, that the controversy might be maintained syllogistically, as became scholars. To this Mr. Henderson readily agreed. The dispute was long and close; and although each party, as usual, claimed the victory, it was allowed by some of the auditors, who have never been considered as prejudiced in favor of Presbyterianism, that while Mr. Henderson equaled the king’s commissioners in learning, he surpassed them in modesty. The treaty was, however, broken off; and matters, in place of being mended, became worse and the king’s affairs, after being a considerable time on worse the decline, were totally ruined in the spring of 1646; and he finding no other outgate, threw himself into the Scottish army, which retired with him to Newcastle. When he arrived there, lie sent for Mr. Henderson, being his chaplain, to attend him.
In the present ruined state of the king’s affairs, the increasing strength of the parliamentary forces, and the popularity of their claims, the only measure likely to settle the war, and restore the king to the exercise of his authority, seemed to be his acquiescence in the measures proposed by the parliament, namely, to take the covenant, and abolish the hierarchy, and ratify a Presbyterian government in the churches of both kingdoms. Mr. Henderson was considered the best qualified for dealing with the king in this delicate concern; and notwithstanding his ill state of health, he complied with the king’s request, and the entreaties of his fellow commissioners. Accordingly, arriving at Newcastle about the middle of May, he received a kind welcome from his majesty; but soon perceived that he was determined not to comply with the requisitions of his parliament. The king signified, that he could not, in conscience, consent to the abolition of episcopacy, and proposed that Mr. Henderson should carry on a dispute with some Episcopal divines, a list of whose names he gave him. This, however, Mr. Henderson declined, as a business he had no authority to undertake, and as little reason to expect when he complied with his majesty’s request of coming to Newcastle. “Besides (said he), such disputations have seldom had any good effect in ending controversies; and in the present state of your majesty’s affairs, must be extremely prejudicial to your majesty’s interest. All that I intended, says Mr. Henderson elsewhere, was a free, yet modest declaration of the motives that induced me to dislike and abandon Episcopal government, in which I was bred in the university.” It was therefore agreed, that the king’s scruples should be discussed, in a series of papers, privately between himself and Mr. Henderson. These papers are eight in number, five by his majesty, and three by Mr. Henderson, from some time in May till the 16th of July.
Mr. Henderson apprised his majesty, on this occasion; of the great loss his cause had sustained, and was likely still farther to sustain, by exciting learned men to dispute on the power and prerogative of princes—subjects that, for the most part, were incapable of standing the light of critical investigation. But perceiving that he tenaciously adhered to opinions discarded by all the moderate Episcopalians, and maintained by those only who were leading him to the brink of a precipice, he declined entering farther into a fruitless contest. Mr. Henderson, whose health was considerably impaired when he came to Newcastle, grew much worse while he remained with the king. His constitution, worn down with incessant labor, the sorrow and anxiety that preyed upon his spirits, from the obvious infatuation and incurable obduracy of the king, increased his disorder; and considering his dissolution fast approaching, he resolved to return to Scotland. Before leaving Newcastle, he had an audience of the king; where he again reminded him of the very critical situation of his affairs, and his full conviction that nothing but his concurring with the claims of his parliament could restore his authority, and tranquillize the general ferment that pervaded every part of his dominions. Thus having discharged the duties of that employment which placed him about his majesty’s person, he took his final farewell. He returned by sea, and arrived at Leith on the 11th of August 1646, very sick, and much exhausted. He continued so weak, that he was often unable to speak; but when able, he expressed himself much to the satisfaction of his brethren and Christian acquaintances who visited him; and within eight days from his arrival in Scotland, he rested from his labors, on the 19th day of August 1646.
In the course of examining his papers, there was found amongst them a short Confession of his Faith, written with his own hand, wherein he expresses his dying thoughts at this trying hour; and, amongst other things, declares, “That most of all he was indebted to the free grace and goodness of God, who had called him to the faith of the promises, and had exalted him to preach them to his fellow sinners, and to be a willing, though weak, instrument in promoting this wonderful work of reformation; which he prayed the Lord to bring to a happy termination.” Mr. Livingston, in his Characteristics at the end of his life, declares, “That he was present at his death, and saw him expire in great peace and comfort.” And Mr. Baillie says, “He died as he lived, in great modesty, faith, and piety.” His mortal remains were interred in the Grayfriar’s churchyard, Edinburgh. Having no family of his own, his nephew, Mr. George Henderson, performed the last kind offices of humanity to his mortal part, and erected a monument, with appropriate inscriptions, which testify how very highly he was esteemed7 by all classes, both in Scotland and England, by whom his death was greatly lamented. After the restoration of king Charles, when every species of indignity was done to the reformation, and to those who were active in promoting it, the earl of Middleton, the king’s commissioner, procured an order of parliament, in July 1662, for disfiguring the monument, and erasing the inscriptions; but at the revolution the monument was repaired, and the inscriptions replaced, and it still stands entire on the southwest side of the Grayfriars church. ‘ It is a quadrangular pillar, with an urn at the top.
Mr. Henderson having died soon after his conferences with the king, the Episcopalians industriously ‘circulated a report, that he was not only vanquished, but even converted by his royal antagonist—a report, however, that had not the least shadow of truth to support it, and which was keenly contradicted by all who had an opportunity of being well acquainted with Mr. Henderson’s sentiments at that time, and during the short period of life after his return to Edinburgh. But all this was not sufficient; for about two years after his death,’ a declaration, in his own name, made its appearance; in which he was represented as expressing great contrition for having acceded to the proceedings of the Presbyterians. This base forgery was done by a Scottish Episcopalian divine; on the appearance of which, the general assembly of the church of Scotland called and examined those persons who were present along with Mr. Henderson during his conferences with the king, and also several of those who were most conversant with him during the short period that elapsed from his return to Edinburgh till his death; who unanimously declared, that he continued to the last unaltered in his sentiments. Upon this the assembly passed an act, declaring the said pamphlet forged, scandalous, and false, and the author and contriver of the same destitute of charity and a good conscience, a gross liar and calumniator, led by the spirit of the accuser of the brethren.; Again, about the middle of the eighteenth century, this convicted forgery was credulously revived by Mr. Ruddiman, who, notwithstanding his eminent learning, is known to have had the weakest prejudices respecting Jacobinism and Episcopacy. His attempt was, however, triumphantly exposed by Mr. Logan. Bishop Guthrie, in his Memoirs, page 24th, says, “Upon Mr. Henderson all the ministers of the Presbyterian persuasion depended; and no wonder, for in gravity, learning, wisdom, and state policy, he was by far their superior.” Pinkerton calls him “The Franklin of the Scottish commotions.” And Granger, a minister of the church of England, says concerning him, “Mr. Henderson, the chief of the Scottish clergy in this reign, was learned, eloquent, polite, and perfectly versed in the knowledge of mankind. He was at the helm of affairs in the general assemblies of Scotland, and sent into England in the double capacity of a divine and plenipotentiary. He knew how to rouse the people to war, or negotiate a peace. Whenever he preached, it was to crowded audiences; and when he pleaded or argued, he was regarded with the mutest attention.” His parts and acquirements qualified him for acting in the most difficult situations either in church or state, and the circumstances of the times placed him in both; where his prudence, activity, and incorruptible integrity, commanded the universal approbation and gratitude of the covenanters, and excited even the admiration of his enemies. Called from his beloved retirement by the sufferings and necessity of his weeping country, pressed down by the power of ambitious prelates, an arbitrary court, and corrupt statesmen, he entered upon the bustle of public affairs at a time of life when others think of retiring. Nor could the fatigue and anxiety, attending his difficult services, induce him to relinquish his station, till his shattered frame sunk beneath the burden of his labors, and he died a martyr to the cause he had so ably supported.
His unremitting labors, in the public concerns of the church and nation, left him little leisure to prepare works for the press. The public papers he drew up, however, point him out as one of the best writers of his time; and even his few sermons which have been published, though hastily written, amidst a multiplicity of diversified avocations, justify the reputation he had gained for this species of composition. As a public speaker, he was eloquent, judicious, and highly popular. His eloquence was easy, but impressive, grave, but fluent, like the motion of a deep river, that carries one insensibly along with it, rather than the rapidity of a dashing torrent; and few preachers have ever been better attended, or listened to with more watchful anxiety.