Covenant and Conflict, 1560-1638: A Study in Early Covenant History

Goudie, John W (1976) Covenant and Conflict, 1560-1638: A Study in Early Covenant History. Master of Theology thesis, University of Glasgow.

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I. The covenant concept was undoubtedly the dominating influence in shaping the course of historical events in Scotland from 1560 on, John Knox accepted and developed the covenant concept during his life time. He interpreted it as "the league and fellowship that is between God and his elect". It was the justification for active rebellion against all tyrannical and idolatrous sovereignty. It also became the basis of his "Theocratic" ideal for the Scottish nation. In the hands of subsequent Reformed preachers the covenant idea was developed into an impressive "Covenant Theology" which popularized the concept of the Scottish nation as a covenanted people, standing before God, Knox's concept of a State dominated by the Church laid the foundations of future disharmony between the religious and the civil spheres. During the long conflict with the Stuart Kings the covenant idea was peculiarly suited to the Scottish mind. It was the covenant which brought the nobility, the Kirkmen, and the people into a formidable union which remained the symbol of inherent Scottish authority throughout the period of conflict. II. When James VI elected to rule by "Divine Right", a collision between the claims of a theocratic kirk and an authoritarian Crown became inevitable. This marked the beginning of what is known as the "Episcopacy controversy". To counter the Presbyterian pretensions of the MelviIlian Party, James adopted the extreme policy of declaring himself head of the Church, ratified the power of bishops, and reconfirmed the jurisdiction of the King and Council, This policy was fraught with great dangers to the monarchy because James' assertion of the royal prerogative, not only increased the opposition of the Kirkmen, but also offended the great Scottish nobility who had long been the hereditary advisers to the Scottish Kings. The chief interest of the reign accordingly lies in the statesman-like way in which James succeeded in countering the opposition of both Kirkmen and nobles, and finally managed to rivet a form of Episcopacy upon the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. It is claimed that James VI averted revolution by the skilful balancing of his temporising policies. III. There is little doubt that this controversy which involved the Crown and Kirk and Parliament affected the people's attitude to monarchy. It is said that neither James nor Charles had any personal charisma. James was not above attempting to achieve his ends by fraudulent means. One cause of offence was his fondness for "dealing" and "dissembling". In both father and son it was a characteristic which destroyed confidence because neither could be relied on to keep his word. The revival of the Mediaeval doctrine of "Divine Right of Kings" was alien to the Scottish view of constitutional monarchy which had been stressed by George Buchanan and was taken over into a covenant concept and proclaimed by the Kirkmen. In the mood of the times the exercise of the royal prerogative soon began to undermine the sense of national security. In Kirk matters the proclamation of the royal authority was regarded as destroying the "discipline" and, since "religion was politics" in 17th century Scotland, it was equally regarded as damaging to the existence of constitutional government. The reality of this disharmony between the Crown, the Assembly, and the Parliament tended to widen the gap between the King and the people. The decline in respect for kingship most likely was assisted by a growing awareness also of economic deprivation. There were disappointed expectaions connected with the Union of 1603 when the improvement in trading relations did not materialize. Other related causes need to be taken into consideration. The removal of the government to London had the effect of making the Scottish hereditary nobility feel a sense of being "politically deprived". The removal of the King and Court to London, coupled with the apparent lack of interest which both James and Charles showed to Scotland, soon gave rise to the irritating thought among the Scots that they were the subjects of an "English King". IV. Charles 1 was singularly unfitted to govern Scotland. He had learned nothing from his father's policy in governing which clearly indicated that to follow the path of compromise was the surest guiding, He ignored the evidence that what his father had achieved lacked popular support. He took the unprecented steps of alienating the great Scottish Lords and landowners by his Act of Revocation, spurned the great political and legal families, who had been his father's friends, and finally threw all caution to the winds, by his attempt to impose a New Liturgy and Canons upon the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, without the assent of either Assembly or Council and against the advice of the more moderate bishops. Charles' bishops, under the direction of Laud, deliberately sought to change the traditional form of worship in Scotland, Undoubtedly other causes, both political and social, combined to bring about the Scottish Revolution of 1638-1643. But it was the New Liturgy which was the match which kindled the fire. The National Covenant became the focus of the religious and political conflict because it expressed in quite a remarkable way the convictions and hopes of the Scottish people at that time. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Theology)
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Religious history, Theology
Date of Award: 1976
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1976-78811
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 14:52
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 14:52

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