Brown (of Haddington), John - Covenant Theology and Covenanting - Solemn League and Covenant - Westminster Confession, Assembly and Divines




Summary and Review by Dr. Reg Barrow

The Absurdity and Perfidy of All Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy, Idolatry, Popery, in Britain

John Brown of Haddington (1797, 1803 edition)

The sub-title reads: "In two letters to a friend in which the doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith relative to Toleration of a False Religion, and the power of the civil magistrate about sacred matters; and the nature, origin, ends and obligation of the National Covenant and Solemn League are candidly represented and defended."


Here Brown deals with three major Reformation attainments (anti-tolerationism, establishmentarianism and the obligations of lawful covenants as they biblically bind posterity) that Satan has always been especially concerned to overthrow -- in every major demonic move to open the floodgates of lawlessness, anarchy and misrule. Fletcher, in the preface to the 1797 edition, relates this truth as it comes to bear on various religious professors, stating,

Papists were enemies to our covenants because they were a standard lifted up against their system of abominable idolatries. Episcopalians were enemies to them, because they were a standard lifted up against their anti-scriptural church-officers and inventions of men in the worship of God. Some Presbyterians are enemies to them in our day through ignorance of their nature and ends; and others through fear of being too strictly bound to their duty (Cited in Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant, p. 486).


It is also interesting to note the long list of backsliders and heretics that often oppose one or more of these points.

The ancient Donatists, a sect of Arian separatists, who appeared about the beginning of the 4th Century, seem to have been among the first who held out these opinions to the Christian world. Feeling the weight of the arm of power for their schismatical practices, by way of reprisal, they stript the magistrate of all power in religion;"maintaining that he had no more power about religious matters than any private person, and refusing him the right of suppressing the propagators of doctrines different from those professed by the Church, or the observers of a different form of worship. From them the German Anabaptists adopted the same views. Then the Socinians (i.e. an early form of Scripture-denying liberals-RB) and remonstrant Arminians, whenever the magistrate ceased to patronize their cause. The English Independents during the time of the Long Parliament were the zealous supporters of the same opinions. In their rage for liberty of conscience, they formed the strongest opposition in the Westminster Assembly which the Presbyterians had to encounter. Through their influence that venerable body was much embarrassed (hindered-RB) in their proceeding; and by their means (in collusion with that "Judas of the Covenant," Cromwell-RB), certain passages of the Confession of Faith never obtained the ratification of the English Parliament. The English Dissenters of the present age are generally in the same views, especially the Socinians, the Arians, and the Quakers, who have most to dread from the Laws of the Land against their blasphemies. And who knows not that the high reputation of Mr. Locke as a Philosopher... has given these opinions such an air of respectability, that many youth in the Universities have been thereby inclined to embrace them? (Preface, pp. vi-vii).


In our day the tree of toleration (and the anti-Scriptural principles which logically grow out of it) has spread its branches in ways that could have never been envisioned by those that took the first steps away from biblical and covenanted uniformity. What Brown is fighting against here is an error so foundational that when left unchecked it permeates all of society, cutting out the foundational roots that are necessary for all national Reformations. And "if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11:3). Furthermore, as the preface notes "liberty of conscience and of opinion" are "the great idols of the day." Here Brown takes out his covenantal hammer and smashes these idols with an inconoclastic zeal worthy of our earlier Reformed forefathers. This book is especially useful in answering the persistent fear and questions that always arise when these old Reformed views are discussed: that is, the questions dealing with religious persecution. Brown spends much time in clearing the Westminster Divines of such false charges, while also setting these controversial Reformed teachings on a thoroughly biblical foundation.


Interestingly, in the section defending the continuing obligation of the National and Solemn League and Covenant, we also note that the Westminster Assembly considered the Solemn League and Covenant an "everlasting covenant." Brown cites the following as proof, "That the body of the English nation also swore the Solemn League and Covenant, is manifest. The Westminster Assembly and English Parliament, affirm, "The honourable house of Parliament, the Assembly of Divines, the renowned city of London, and multitudes of other persons of all ranks and quality in this nation, and the whole body of Scotland, have all sworn it, rejoicing at the oath so graciously seconded from heaven. God will, doubtless, stand by all those, who with singleness of heart shall now enter into an everlasting covenant with the Lord?" (p. 161, emphasis added). The footnote tells us that the words Brown was quoting were taken from "Exhortation to take the Covenant, February, 1644."


Brown also includes a helpful section on a point some modern day malignants are once again attempting to use to overthrow the biblical attainments of the covenanted Reformation. This section shows that the "(t)he intrinsic obligation of promises, oaths, vows, and covenants which constitutes their very essence or essential form, is totally and manifestly distinct from the obligation of the law of God in many respects" (p. 120, emphasis added).


Finally, we cite a portion of Brown's dying testimony to his children given in the introduction (p. xix). Such testimonies, from notable Christian leaders, often contain singularly pertinent charges to their hearers. (For another notable example of this see James Renwick's dying testimony, as he was about to be martyred for his adherence to the Solemn League and Covenant, when he recounts what was later to become most of the terms of communion in Covenanted Presbyterian churches. This testimony can be found in Thompson's "A Cloud of Witnesses for the Royal Prerogatives of Jesus Christ Being the Last Speeches and Testimonies of those Who Have Suffered for the Truth in Scotland Since... 1680"). Here are Brown's dying words to his children: "'Adhere constantly, cordially and honestly to the Covenanted Principles of the Church of Scotland, and to that Testimony which hath been lifted up for them. I fear a generation is rising up which will endeavour silently," (O how prophetic!) "to let slip these matters, as if they were ashamed to hold them fast, or even to speak of them (as with many "reformed" publishers and preachers today, who dare not touch the topics Brown deals with in this book-RB). May the Lord forbid that any of you should ever enter into this confederacy against Jesus Christ and his cause! This from a dying father and minister, and a witness for Christ" (Signed) "John Brown.?"


If you have the courage to compare the original Reformed faith with that which is often promoted under its name today (and in many ways the old Reformed faith bears little resemblance to the "new light" Reformers and innovators of our day), then this is an ideal book to obtain and study. 213 pages.

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The Puritan Hard Drive also features many Works by John Brown of Haddington.



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"Calvin, Covenanting and Close Communion" (a book review of "Alexander and Rufus..." by John Anderson [1862]) by Reg Barrow (Shows how Calvin practiced covenanting and close communion and how the biblical view of these ordinances is intended to purify the individual, church and nation. Refutes the Popish, Independent and paedocommunion heresies -- as well as all views of open communion [so common in our day]. Also argues that Arminians, anti-paedobaptists, anti-regulativists, and all those who openly violate the law of God [and are unrepentant] should be barred from the Lord's table -- as a corrective measure ordained of God for their recovery. Also demonstrates that those that would not swear to uphold the "Geneva Confession [or "human constitution," as it was agreeable to the Word of God] of 1536" in Calvin's day were to be excommunicated and exiled from Geneva. This is "Reformation History Notes" number two.)

Terms of Communion: Covenants and Covenanting ($17.85, 7 cassettes by Greg Price)

Explains and defends the fourth term of communion, which is "That public, social covenanting is an ordinance of God, obligatory on churches and nations under the New Testament; that the National Covenant and the Solemn League are an exemplification of this divine institution; and that these Deeds are of continued obligation upon the moral person; and in consistency with this, that the Renovation of these Covenants at Auchensaugh, Scotland, 1712 was agreeable to the word of God." Includes the studies offered separately on the National Covenant (2 tapes), the Solemn League and Covenant (1 tape), the Auchensaugh Renovation (2 tapes), as well as two introductory lectures (only available in this set) on the biblical principles related to the ordinance of covenanting, the descending obligation of lawful covenants, objections against covenanting, etc. Roberts, in his "Reformed Presbyterian Catechism" ($8.99), catches the spirit of this tape set in the following question and answer:

Q. May we not indulge the hope, that, in the goodness of our covenant God, and by the promised outpouring of his Holy Spirit, 'the kingdoms of the world' at large, and the British empire in particular, will dedicate themselves to God in a covenant not to be forgotten - animated by the example of our covenant fathers exhibited in these memorable deeds?

A. Yes. We have the most cheering grounds for this blessed hope; for it is written, that the nations at large in the spirit of devoted loyalty, shall cry -- 'Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten': and it cannot be well doubted, that the death-cry of the martyred Guthrie has been heard on high, and shall be verified -- 'The covenants, the covenants, shall yet be Scotland's (and the world's -- RB) reviving'" (p. 151).

A thoroughly amazing set of tapes -- among our best!


The Ordinance of Covenanting


This book is considered by many as the classic work on covenanting. "The theology of Covenanting is here unfolded with a richness of scriptural research and a maturity of intellectual strength which would have made the grey eye of Peden glisten with delight. The treatise is a valuable addition to that solid theological literature of which the Reformed Presbyterian Church has produced repeated and enduring specimens, and stamps Mr. Cunningham as a distinguished disciple of the thoughtful and scriptural school of Mason and the Symingtons" ("Presby Rev.," 1844) as cited in "The Treasury of the Scottish Covenant" by Johnston).

The author himself notes that "(p)rayer and the offering of praise are universally admitted to be duties of religion. The Scriptures announce a place among these for the exercise of solemn Covenanting... What the word of God unfolds concerning it, is addressed to the most resolute consideration of all, and is capable of engaging the most extensive and prolonged investigation. And yet, though none have found this subject, like all God's judgements, else than a great deep, still in meditating upon it, the ignorant have been brought to true knowledge, and the wise have increased in wisdom. 'The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant' (Ps. 25:14)... Mutual federal engagements, concerning things religious and civil, whether entered into merely by simple promise, or confirmed by the solemn oath, have been made from the highest antiquity to the present. The hostility to some such engagements, and also the proud disregard for their obligation, which have been evinced by some in all ages, demand a most careful examination into their nature and design... Furnished with the key of Scripture, approaching the subject, we are enabled to open the mysteries in which ignorance and prejudice had shut it up; and equipped with the armour of light shooting forth its heavenly radiance, in safety to ourselves we assail the darkness thrown around it, and behold the instant flight of the spirits of error which that darkness contains. Standing alone in beauteous attractions descended from heaven upon it, this service beckons us to approach it, and engages to connect extensive good with a proper attention to its claims. The observance, under various phases, is described in Scripture as an undisputed and indisputable reality."

In this book Cunningham exhaustively covers the subject of covenanting in over 400 pages. He deals with the manner, duty and nature of covenanting (including personal and social covenanting), the obligation covenanting confers, how covenanting is provided for in the everlasting covenant, how it is adapted to the moral constitution of man and how it is according to the purposes of God. Numerous Divine examples are cited from Scripture and covenanting is shown to be one of the great privileges of the Christian life.

An interesting chapter covers "Covenanting Enforced By the Grant of Covenant Signs and Seals;" which touches on circumcision, baptism, the Sabbath, the Priesthood, the new heart and the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this book demonstrates how God's approbation rested upon Covenanters in formers ages, how covenanting is predicted in prophecy, how it is recommended by the practice of the New Testament Church and at what seasons it is appropriate. The appendices touch on the relationship of covenanting to immoral and unscriptural civil governments, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the British constitution and the apostasy of the Revolution settlement.

Additionally, Cunningham acknowledges that the true church is "bound by the obligations of the Church of God is past times" and is still obligated to *pay what it has vowed to the Lord* in those magnificent attainments of the second Reformation (the epitome of these attainments being embodied in the Solemn League and Covenant and the Westminster Standards).

If you are interested in the ordinance of covenanting this is the most extensive treatment you will find in one book. It is a gold mine of Scriptural references and should be read at least once by everyone who calls upon the name of Christ.

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The Self-Interpreting Bible: With Commentaries, References, Harmony of the Gospels and Many Other Helps Needed to Understand and Teach the Text (4 Volume Set, 1914 edition) by John Brown of Haddington

The Absurdity and Perfidy of All Authoritative Toleration of Gross Heresy, Blasphemy, Idolatry, Popery, in Britain by John Brown of Haddington


The Duty of Covenanting, and the Permanent Obligation of Religious Covenants (1853)
Excerpted from the Reformed Presbyterian Catechism below, this book deals with an almost forgotten ordinance of God. It explains what covenants are, while contrasting them with oaths, vows and law. Furthermore, it distinguishes between civil and religious covenants and shows how the individual, family, church or nation can (and should) enter into covenants -- especially religious covenants. Explains why, when and how covenants are binding on posterity, citing abundant Scriptural proof for each assertion made. Here is a sample argument from this book, demonstrating how even covenants made between men are viewed as binding upon posterity by God himself: "Another instance in which posterity is recognized in covenant obligation is found in Joshua 9:15. This covenant was made between the children of Israel and the Gibeonites. Between four and five hundred years after that time, the children of Israel are visited with a very severe famine, in the days of David. 2 Sam. 21:1. And it is expressly declared by the Lord that, 'It is for Saul, and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.' And at the same time, v. 2, that very covenant is recognized, and the breach of it is stated, as being the formal reason of the divine displeasure. Now, had it not been for this covenant, the extirpation of the Gibeonites would not have been imputed to Israel as a thing criminal; for they were comprehended in Canaanitish nations, which God had commanded them to root out" (pp. 139-140). Take the time to look these verses up. This subject has great bearing on the unity of the church, the Christian's response to godless covenant-breaking nations, hermeneutics, the family and general faithfulness to God (because many today -- individually, ecclesiastically, and nationally -- are breaking covenants which God still views as binding though they are oblivious to this obligation). Great price too!
(Rare bound photocopy) $5.95-70%=1.78


The Duty of Nations, in their National Capacity, to Acknowledge and Support the True Religion (1853)
Excerpted from the Reformed Presbyterian Catechism below, this book deals with the inescapable necessity, of the demand found in the Word of God, for the Civil establishment of Christ and King and Lawgiver over every nation on earth. If you are sick of the cease-fire with humanism, set forth by the syncretistic, Satanic and pragmatic pagan politicians of our day, (those who bargain with votaries of Antichrist [the Pope], publicly tolerate all manner of false religions (e.g. Islam) and idolatry, and compose their policy and draw their pretended authority from the beast [and not the Word of God], this book is for you! For all pagan politics is summed up in the words of the Cameronian (Covenanter) political philosopher Alexander Shields, as "rotting away under the destructive distempers of detestable neutrality, loathsome lukewarmness, declining, and decaying in corruptions, defections, divisions, distractions, confusions; and so judicially infatuated with darkness and delusions, that they forget and forego the necessary testimony of the day" (A HIND LET LOOSE, 1797 edition, p. 20). Pick up this book and begin the political walk in the "footsteps of the flock," traveling the covenanting road of Reformation and Scripture (with the magisterial Reformers of the past)!
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The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism (1853)
A manual of instruction, drawing from such notable authors as William Symington and J.R. Willson, presenting "arguments and facts confirming and illustrating the 'Distinctive Principles'" of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Chapters deal with: "Christ's Mediatorial Dominion in general;" Christ's exclusive Headship over the Church;" "The Supreme and Ultimate Authority of the Word of God in the Church;" Civil Government, the Moral Ordinance of God;" Christ's Headship over the Nations;" "The Subjection of the Nations to God and to Christ;" The Word, or Revealed Will of God, the Supreme Law in the State;" "The Duty of Nations, in their National Capacity, to acknowledge and support the True Religion:" "The Spiritual Independence of the Church of Christ:" "The Right and Duty of Dissent from an immoral Constitution of Civil Government;" "The Duty of Covenanting, and the Permanent Obligations of Religious Covenants;" "The Application of these Principles to the Governments, where Reformed Presbyterians reside, in the form of a Practical Testimony;" and finally "Application of the Testimony to the British Empire." A most important book, as we approach (possibly) the end of the great apostasy and will be in need of preparing for the dawning of the glorious millennial blessings to come; the days prophesied in which the church "shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings" (Isa. 60:16).
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Distinctive Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (1841)
This book is not designed to discuss "the (many-RB) doctrines which the Reformed Presbyterian church holds in common will others," but is written to set forth RP distinctives. It tackles its subject from three major heads: "Social Covenanting;" "The Dominion of Christ;" and "The Universal Application of Scripture (civil as well as religious)." It shows that while these doctrines "are held by many, as abstract doctrines of divine truth, they are not embodied in the testimony of any other Christian denomination: nor made necessary to ministerial or Christian fellowship. Although other individuals may hold these doctrine, it is a 'distinctive' feature of the RPC to embody them in her testimony; and to make them terms of communion." It also explains how these are the same distinctives that were maintained "at the era of the reformation, (when) the covenanted church of Scotland bore a distinguished testimony for all the offices of Christ, as prophet, priest and king: and for the pure doctrines, worship, discipline, and government of the house of God." The author states that "the great object aimed at is to help forward the glorious triumph of the Messiah, so beautifully described in the 72nd Psalm. When 'all Kings shall fall down before him; and all nations shall serve him.'"
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Distinctive Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (1841) by David Scott


The Duty and Perpetual Obligation of Social Covenanting
The material found in this bound photocopy addresses a forgotten and neglected ordinance of God: social covenanting. God's people in times of repentance and thanksgiving, trial and blessing have been a covenanting people. In the most pure times of ecclesiastical and civil reformation throughout history, both church and state under the mediatorial rule of Christ have by the grace of God bound themselves together by covenant to promote and defend the true Christian religion. The first document adopted by the Westminster Assembly was in fact, the Solemn League and Covenant (1644). It united the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland in a covenanted reformation of both church and state in order to preserve, promote and defend the true Christian religion (as summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Directory For Public Worship, and Form of Church Government), and in order to expose and uproot all false teaching contrary to the Scripture and these standards. Furthermore, it was not only the desire of the Westminster Assembly to unite in covenant the three British kingdoms, but rather to include in this covenanted reformation all of the Reformed Churches throughout Europe. Consider the goal of the Assembly as summarized by Hetherington: "There was one great, and even sublime idea, brought somewhat indefinitely before the Westminster Assembly, which has not yet been realized, the idea of a Protestant union throughout Christendom, not merely for the purpose of counterbalancing Popery, but in order to purify, strengthen, and unite all true Christian churches, so that with combined energy and zeal they might go forth, in glad compliance with the Redeemer's commands, teaching all nations, and preaching the everlasting gospel to every creature under heaven. This truly magnificent, and also truly Christian idea, seems to have originated in the mind of that distinguished man, Alexander Henderson. It was suggested by him to the Scottish commissioners, and by them partially brought before the English Parliament, requesting them to direct the Assembly to write letters to the Protestant Churches in France, Holland, Switzerland, and other Reformed Churches. . . . and along with these letters were sent copies of the Solemn League and Covenant, a document which might itself form the basis of such a Protestant union. The deep thinking divines of the Netherlands apprehended the idea, and in their answer, not only expressed their approbation of the Covenant, but also desired to join in it with the British kingdoms. Nor did they content themselves with the mere expression of approval and willingness to join. A letter was soon afterwards sent to the Assembly from the Hague, written by Duraeus (the celebrated John Dury), offering to come to the Assembly, and containing a copy of a vow which he had prepared and tendered to the distinguished Oxenstiern, chancellor of Sweden, wherein he bound himself 'to prosecute a reconciliation between Protestants in point of religion'. . . . [O]n one occasion Henderson procured a passport to go to Holland, most probably for the purpose of prosecuting this grand idea. But the intrigues of politicians, the delays caused by the conduct of the Independents, and the narrow-minded Erastianism of the English Parliament, all conspired to prevent the Assembly from entering farther into that truly glorious Christian enterprise. Days of trouble and darkness came; persecution wore out the great men of that remarkable period; pure and vital Christianity was stricken to the earth and trampled under foot. . ." (William Hetherington, History of the Westminster Assembly of Divines , [Edmonton, Alberta: Still Waters Revival Books], pp. 337-339). The material presented herein is commended to the reader with the sincere prayer and confidence that God will again restore the Church of Jesus Christ to a glorious covenanted reformation--one that will even surpass that one to which she had attained at the time of the Westminster Assembly. However, when the Lord brings that future covenanted reformation it will not be limited to only three kingdoms of the earth, but by the grace and power of Christ our King, it will be a covenanted reformation that will encompass all of the nations of the earth (Ps. 2:6-12; Is. 2:1-4; Mt. 28:1-20) and will bring to the church a visible unity and uniformity that (unlike pleas for unity today) is firmly grounded upon the truth" (Greg Price, Preface). The material contained in this compilation was gathered together by the session of the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton/Prince George. Its 210 pages contain the following items, as listed in this bibliography for social covenanting.
1. Samuel Rutherford, Due Right of Presbyteries , pp. 130-139
2. George Gillespie, The Works of George Gillespie, Vol. 2, pp. 71-88.
3. John Brown of Wamphray, An Apologetic Relation , pp. 167-175, 181-207.
4. David Scott, Distinctive Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, pp. 14-90.
5. William Roberts, The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism , pp. 134-152.
6. The Reformed Presbytery, An Explanation and Defence of the Terms of Communion , pp. 181-187.
7. The Reformed Presbytery, Act , Declaration and Testimony , pp. 11-23.
8. The Reformed Presbytery, The Auchensaugh Renovation , pp. 115-140.
9. The Church of Scotland (1639), The National Covenant of Scotland , pp. 345-354 in the Westminster Confession of Faith published by Free Presbyterian Publications.
10. The Westminster Assembly (1644), The Solemn League and Covenant , pp. 355-360 in the Westminster Confession of Faith published by Free Presbyterian Publications.
11. The Church of Scotland (1648), A Solemn Acknowledgement of Publick Sins and Breaches of the Covenant , pp. 361-368 in the Westminster Confession of Faith published by Free Presbyterian Publications.

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The Duty and Perpetual Obligation of Social Covenanting by Samuel Rutherford, et. al


Brown (of Haddington), John - Covenant Theology and Covenanting - Solemn League and Covenant