History of the Scotch Church from the signing of the National Covenant to the Restoration of Charles II., 1660 (2)

From Scotch and Irish Seeds in American Soil by Rev. J. G. Craighead

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CHAPTER III.continued

While the Covenanters had calmly and firmly taken their position, from which they could not be driven, they were anxious to avoid any conflict with the monarch. Before the marquis of Hamilton left Edinburgh several of their leading men waited upon him to solicit his friendly mediation. This failing, they sent a supplication to the king himself, in reading which he indignantly said, “When they have broken my head, they will put on my cowl.” He was greatly enraged at what he considered an insult to his royal prerogative, and immediately resolved upon the suppression of the offenders. He began at once his preparations for war, receiving his chief supply of money from the liberal contributions of the English bishops. Most reluctantly the Presbyterians engaged in the conflict which they saw was inevitable, for the king would not pardon the offence of the Assembly, and Scotland would not recede from the stand which had been taken in the name of the nation. In the minds of many Christians there were grave doubts concerning the propriety of even a defensive war. But when the question was clearly seen to be, as it really was, whether, in obeying the monarch, they must disobey God, they soon arrived at the conclusion “that a Christian people were entitled to take up arms in defence of their religious liberties against any assailant.” They did not hesitate—nay, were forward—to yield obedience to the king in all things pertaining to the State, and even to submit to civil wrongs after a simple protest or remonstrance, but they were convinced that religious liberty could not be yielded without committing grievous sin.

Having thus concluded, they began their preparations to defend their rights. Full executive powers were given to the committee in Edinburgh, arms and ammunition were collected, and experienced officers were employed to instruct those who were willing to serve in the army; and as the forces of Charles were already assembling at York, the precaution was taken to seize the strong fortresses of Edinburgh and Dumbarton. Dalkeith was also taken possession of, and Leith fortified to protect the capital from assault by sea. All attempts at compromise having failed, the infatuated monarch demanded the renunciation of the Covenant and the Glasgow Assembly, and an unconditional submission to his royal will. Orders were issued by the committee for the Scottish army to march to headquarters. The chief command was entrusted to the experienced and veteran soldier, General Leslie, and the army moved forward in two divisions to Dunse Law, where it encamped within sight of Charles' forces. The level summit of the hill on which the Scottish troops had taken up their position bristled with cannon. Around it were pitched the tents of the soldiers, and at the door of each captain's tent a staff was planted, from which floated a banner with the inscription in golden letters, “FOR CHRIST'S CROWN AND COVENANT.” Attached to each regiment was an able and honored minister, who regularly, morning and evening, conducted devotional services in the presence of the assembled troops. The army was composed mainly of peasants, to whom religious liberty was dear, and who were ready to sacrifice their lives in its defence. These were led by their time-honored nobility, encouraged by their beloved pastors, and rendered invincible in their own estimation by the righteous cause for which they contended. Fearing God, they feared not the face of man.

No wonder that the king hesitated before risking battle with so formidable and resolute an enemy, particularly as he must have known that the English had little heart to engage in what was justly regarded as the bishops’ war. Accordingly, he made it known that he was ready and anxious to receive proposals for peace from his aggrieved subjects. These were promptly made, since the Covenanters were not moved by pride and were only desirous to have their religious freedom assured. After protracted negotiations the king acceded to articles of peace, in which the requests of the aggrieved party were virtually granted. Then followed the signing of a treaty, the disbanding of the armies, and the restoring to the king of the castles that had been seized.

Short-lived was the peace thus inaugurated. Kingcraft was again invoked, and was employed in every possible manner to thwart the wishes of the loyal subjects of the realm. The Assembly that met in Edinburgh that same year abolished all the prelatic innovations which again had been forced upon the Church, and made provision for the annual meeting of Assemblies and the regular meeting of synods, presbyteries, and kirk sessions. The National Covenant was also renewed, and the privy-council petitioned to sanction it and to require all subjects to subscribe it. This was done, the whole council subscribing as well as the king’s commissioner.

These acts of the Assembly and the council incensed the monarch, who resolved once more on war. By great exertions his exhausted treasury was replenished, and he took the field with an army of over twenty thousand men. As usual, the Covenanters tried every pacific measure before engaging even in a defensive war. But convinced of the uselessness of all their efforts, the alarm was again sounded, and was answered by the mustering to their former station, Dunse Law, of thousands of the nobility and ministers and brave peasantry. After remaining inactive for a time, no enemy appearing, they resolved to advance in a peaceful manner toward the royal army. Disclaiming all hostile intentions against the English nation, they marched to the Tweed, and then, crossing the Tyne, took possession of Newcastle after a feeble resistance on the part of the royal forces. The latter were allowed to retire unmolested to show their pacific intentions, and a petition was presented to the king urging him to grant their just requests and thus restore peace to his distracted kingdom. The treaty of Ripon was the result of the decisive stand taken by the Covenanters, and was succeeded by the meeting of the Long Parliament, so memorable in the annals of the nation, and which continued its sessions until English episcopacy was overthrown.

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