Who Were the Covenanters?

This past Sunday I used a story from the time of the Covenanters as an illustration to help us understand the blessings and privileges of coming to the Lord’s Table. I realize that many of us don’t have much of an understanding of the Covenanters and their story. I certainly never learned of them in any history class other than Church History in seminary. Who were these people?

The Covenanters were those in Scotland who signed the National Covenant in 1638. They did this to affirm their opposition to the interference of the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland.

The Stuart kings believed in the Divine Right of the Monarch. Not only did they believe God had made them infallible rulers of their kingdom but they also believed they were to be the head and king of the Church of Scotland. This is what fueled the National Covenant. The Covenanters believed that only Jesus Christ is Head and King of His Church- and rightly so!

What followed is almost hard to believe. King Charles I demanded that the Book of Common Prayer be used in all Scottish churches beginning in 1637. He declared any opposition to this prescribed liturgy would be treason. Thus the Covenant was signed in 1638.

There then came a time of intense persecution. Ministers with Covenanting sympathies were forcefully removed from their churches. Many continued to preach at gatherings called “Conventicles” which met in barns or outdoors. People who attended such gatherings could be arrested, tortured, and even executed if they failed to take oaths that declared the king head of the church.

The Covenanters were willing to risk all and even die for their conviction that Jesus alone is Head and King of His Church. Their faith and boldness is stirring and convicting. These times of persecution did not end until 1688 when the Glorious Revolution took place and Prince William of Orange made a bloodless invasion of Great Britain.

The Covenanters are a part of our spiritual heritage and remind us of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things- especially His Church. Their motto was “For Christ and Covenant”. May God grant us such courage and such love for Jesus!

Much of this information was taken from the Scottish Covenanters Memorial Association web site: http://www.covenanter.org.uk