Covenanter question

Discussion in 'Worship' started by M21195, Jan 12, 2012.

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  1. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman

    Can any one try to explain to me what they think the principles of the Covenanted Reformation are in America today?

    What does the name "Covenanter" mean in America today and what are the beliefs of someone who claims this title in America in this day. I've been doing some study online about the subject and its difficult for me to understand how these terms are manifested now as opposed to the past in Scotland.
  2. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    A good question that not all Covenanters are even as consistent about! One of my favorite expressions of this is "Reformation Principles Exhibited". I think this is an excellent statement of second reformation principles in an American context. Reformation principles exhibited - Reformed Presbytery - Google Books

    To summarize some leading features:
    1. The mediatorial kingship of Christ over the nations.
    2. Dissent from an immoral civil constitution (political dissent)
    3. The continuing obligation of covenants
    4. A "testimony bearing" church

    The present "Testimony" of the RPCNA (Covenanters) can be found here Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America - Our Constitution
  3. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    How is this commitment to the Scottish National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant shown in Reformed Presbyterian Churches.

    Do you have special services where you renew commitment to these covenants?
  4. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    In the UK the covenants are still held to be binding by the RP Churches of Ireland and Scotland. In the United States, the RPCNA in its Covenant of 1871 we, "conformably to the practice of the godly in former times and recognizing all that is moral in the Covenants of our worthy progenitors of the Second Reformation...[gave] ourselves in covenant to God, to his Church and to one another".

    We still ought to pursue a covenanted uniformity in doctrine, worship, discipline and government and oppose the popery, prelacy, superstition, prophaneness, etc. abjured in those covenants.

    The honest answer to "how is this commitment shown?" is Not very prominently or consistently. May God raise up that banner among us again!
  5. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you Rev. King!

    So the "Reformation Principles Exhibited" is an American version of the "Act, Declaration, & Testimony of 1761?"

    Of the "leading features":
    1. The mediatorial kingship of Christ over the nations: I think I have this one figured out.

    2. Dissent from an immoral civil constitution (political dissent): This one I need help with. How is this dissent demonstrated?

    3. The continuing obligation of covenants: Which covenants does this refer to?

    4. A "testimony bearing" church: For the RPCNA it would be their Constitution.
  6. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Reformation Principles Exhibited was adopted in America in 1806 and sought to apply the church's principles to an American context.
    The Act Declaration and Testimony was adopted by the Scottish Church and was in use by American Covenanters until 1806.

    2. Political dissent is expressed by Covenanters refusing to "incorporate with the body politic". This took the form of refusing to vote because to do so would be participating in the government of a nation opposed to King Jesus. It also meant abstaining from taking any oaths to uphold the constitution since that constitution does not recognize Christ. Practically this excludes from holding political offices, serving in the military and other such things. Positively, Covenanters have supported things like the National Reform Association and the "Christian ammendment movement" seeking to revise our constitution to acknowledge Christ. We have historically written a lot of material in support of the principles and used to have a voice in civil things. It isn't sufficient merely to dissent but we must call our country to repentance and work towards reformation.

    3. In principle it is the idea that there is a descending obligation to any lawful covenants. Historically it has meant the Scottish National Covenant (1638), the Solemn League and Covenante (1643) and in America the RPCNA's Covenant of 1871.

    4. The RPCNA's constitution is its present outworking of this principle. But the principle is that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth and as a body (not just the officers but the whole church) we should uphold a testimony to all of God's revealed truth.
  7. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman

    What is the position of the RPCNA if a member decides to join the US military or work as a police officer, etc..?
  8. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    The RPCNA's Synod approved an "explanatory declaration" for members to use when taking the oath to uphold the constitution so that one's primary allegiance is reserved to Jesus Christ. Members ought to be encouraged, at the very least, to use that--though not all sessions presently teach or enforce this. I know we presently have members in the military and I doubt, in the climate of today's church, if any issue will be made out of it.
  9. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman

    From the RPCNA Constitution (minus scripture proofs):

    16. It is sinful for a Christian to take
    an oath which compromises his supreme allegiance to Jesus Christ. It is
    also sinful to vote Voting involves
    the voter in responsibility for any act
    required of the official as a condition
    of holding his office.

    29. When participating in political
    elections, the Christian should support and vote only for such men as
    are publicly committed to scriptural
    principles of civil government. Should
    the Christian seek civil office by political election, he must openly inform
    those whose support he seeks of his
    adherence to Christian principles of
    civil government.

    So, #16 states that "it is sinful to vote for officials who are required to take an oath which a Christian himself could not take in good conscience." Does that include the current oath of office for an official in the U.S.? If so, then essentially it is sinful to vote at all in the U.S. correct? Also wouldn't it negate #29 unless the oath is changed to not compromise Christ the King?
  10. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    BTW, Here is the Memorial of the 1871 Synod of what Reverend King mentioned earlier. It is wonderful.

    Here is a portion of the first sermon in it.

  11. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Explanatory Declaration

    Explanatory Declaration to be given by members of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America when asked to swear an oath of allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America:

    "I take this oath, pledging my loyalty and allegiance to my country, but declaring my supreme allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, Whom Almighty God has appointed Ruler of Nations, and expressing my dissent from the Constitution's failure to recognize and to acknowledge the Divine Institution of Civil Government."

    I am trying to find out about the voting situation.
  12. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    ^Fascinating. However, from what I've found out about these sorts of oaths, one is not always given the option to add something to the oath they are given to take (e.g., some workers at some universities may be allowed to have an addendum to their oath provided it doesn't alter the original oath in some qualified way that I can't remember right now, but others have to take the oath exactly as it is written). I'm guessing that is not the case for the military, police force, and other similar publicly funded jobs?
  13. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    The oath for immigrants who become US citizens:

  14. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman

    I was wondering what you all thought of the armed forces oath of office, which contains the option to say 'affirm' rather than 'swear'. Would altering just a few words be something that you consider to be sufficient (making it a statement of affirmation, not an oath), or would it still be a necessity that the oath contain a segment that specifically says that ultimate allegiance is to Christ? Would every oath or affirmation need to contain such a segment, or is it possible to claim that allegiance to Christ is an unspoken given, something that does not have to be specifically mentioned everytime, but can be assumed to be true at all times? Just wanted to see what you all think.
  15. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman

    swear   [swair] Show IPA verb, swore or ( Archaic ) sware; sworn; swear·ing.
    verb (used without object) make a solemn declaration or affirmation by some sacred being or object, as a deity or the Bible. bind oneself by oath. give evidence or make a statement on oath. use profane oaths or language: Don't swear in front of the children. declare, affirm, attest, etc., by swearing by a deity, some sacred object, etc. affirm, assert, or say with solemn earnestness. promise or undertake on oath or in a solemn manner; vow. testify or state on oath: He swore it on the witness stand. take (an oath), as in order to give solemnity or force to a declaration, promise, etc.

    af·firm   [uh-furm] Show IPA
    verb (used with object) state or assert positively; maintain as true: to affirm one's loyalty to one's country; He affirmed that all was well. confirm or ratify: The appellate court affirmed the judgment of the lower court. assert solemnly: He affirmed his innocence. express agreement with or commitment to; uphold; support: to affirm human rights.

    verb (used without object)
    5.Law . state something solemnly before a court or magistrate, but without oath. ratify and accept a voidable transaction.
    c.(of an appellate court) to determine that the action of the lower court shall stand.

    I agree that if "affirm" was used at would be an affirmation and not an oath, but if the object affirmed is deemed to be an "immoral civil constitution" hmmmm...
  16. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman


    Thanks for the input. It really does seem like 'affirm' would be acceptable as opposed to 'swear'. Also, how does one decide whether a particular civil constitution was immoral? Is it only immoral if it does not contain a statement that acknowledges Christ as King? I was also wondering if historical context would be taken into consideration. For instance, many people interpret the U.S. Constitution in a way that is very different than the original founders. Even though our founders did not explicitly declare Christ as King in writing, there is enough historical evidence from their actions and personal writings to suggest that obedience and submission to God was something that many of the founding fathers would have considered a given, not something that needed to be explicitly mentioned. With this in mind, if one were to take an oath to uphold and defend the constitution of the United States, one could do so with the inward conviction that loyalty to Christ is obviously first (in the mind of the oath-taker), and that the person recognizes the constitution as the product of a great number of believing men, who had no intention of taking authority away from the Lord. Thoughts?
  17. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Here was a response I received from a Pastor concerning this issue.

    The Explanatory Declaration, in this form, dates from the late 1950s.

    As far as I can see, we can only vote for those who will take the Explanatory Declaration or something with the same meaning. However, it is still OK to vote on issues (taxes, state constitutional amendments, etc.).
  18. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Voting for issues is still "incorporating with the body politic" and would have been discountenanced by the older Covenanters.
  19. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman


    I would guess that if a person truly adheres to Christ being the King of the nations it would follow that a civil constitution that does not acknowledge such would be immoral. As for the founders of the county, I have not had the chance to research the extent of their obedience and submission to God/Jesus. If they were devout men, how could they not mention Christ? I haven't checked on it, but I have read that Christ was mentioned in the Articles of Confederation, but was removed when it was replaced by the Constitution. In the following link J.R. Willson has somethings to say about Washington, Jefferson and Madison.... As a former Army Officer, I've been interested in this subject as of late..

    Prince Messiah's Claims to Dominion Over All Governments
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2012
  20. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman

  21. Loopie

    Loopie Puritan Board Freshman


    You make some excellent points that I am going to definitely think about. It is certainly true that in today's society if a person truly acknowledged Christ as King, they would make sure that it was clear in any affirmation or oath that they took. It really is difficult to say what our founding fathers truly believed. There is no doubt that many considered their faith to be a private matter, and that any declaration of Christ as King in the constitution could lead the way to an infringement on a non-Christian's freedom of religion. Such a statement in the constitution certainly would have ensured that non-Christians would not be allowed to run for public office (or serve in the military), since they would have to take an oath to uphold the constitution (a constitution that requires them to acknowledge Christ as King). This very well might be one reason why our founding fathers did not explicitly include in the constitution an acknowledgment that Christ is King.

    Ultimately it is very difficult when you have both believers and non-believers living in and participating in the same civil society. Unless the society is a Theocratic State, where Christianity is the official religion and is acknowledged as such in its constitution, there are going to be issues when both believers and non-believers are attempting to work together to make their nation better. In our nation which does not have an official/state religion, both non-believers and believers are going to serve the same constitution (although they will each interpret it differently).

    Those who take an extreme position could make a case that Christians should not pay taxes, since there is no doubt that our money is contributing towards federal projects that we might disagree with (funding for abortion, gay marriage, etc.). Obviously this is not what Christ taught, since we are to give unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

    The issue goes even further when it comes to military service. To avoid going too long, I am simply going to post a description of the Roman Legion Military Oath as practiced around the time of Augustus Caesar:

    "Vegetius, who named Frontinus as one of his sources, wrote that

    'After daily training has been added for four or more
    months.... The soldiers swear that they will enthusiastically
    do whatever the emperor commands, that they will never
    desert the army and that they will not shrink from death for
    the sake of the Roman state.'" (Source:

    A Christian version of the oath is also described by Vegetius:

    'They swear by God, by Christ and by the Holy Spirit; and by the majesty of the emperor, which, next to God, should be loved and worshipped by the human race... The soldiers swear to perform with enthusiasm whatever the emperor commands, never to desert, and not to shrink from death on behalf of the Roman state.'

    Obviously it is likely that the Christian version was not accepted by the Roman military until Christianity at least became more accepted throughout the Empire. With this in mind it would be interesting to consider the case of any Roman Centurions who became Christians during the first century A.D. We see in scripture that Roman soldiers who become Christians are not told to stop serving in the military, even though they were required to take an oath swearing allegiance to the Emperor (the oath was renewed every year). There is nothing in scripture to suggest that Roman soldiers who became Christians were only supposed to finish out their terms of service, and not renew their service in the military afterwards. It is also likely that most of them (in the early years of Christianity) swore allegiance to the Emperor without making a statement explicitly saying that Christ was their ultimate King.

    With this in mind I would have to say that there would be nothing necessarily wrong with swearing allegiance to a state or a constitution even though there was no explicit mention of Christ. In the end each person knows inside who they are loyal to, and no matter what promise or oath a Christian might make, there is no doubt that allegiance is always to Christ first and foremost. Thoughts?
  22. Kaalvenist

    Kaalvenist Puritan Board Sophomore

    It should be pointed out that the RPCNA shifted in its position on the question of political dissent over the course of the twentieth century. Prior to the 1930s, no oath was allowed to be taken to the U.S. Constitution. During the 1930s, the concept of an "explanatory declaration," or a qualification to the oath, was first introduced, with the last form of it occurring in 1961. In 1967, Synod voted to approve a recommendation by one of their committees, that it could not be determined that it was intrinsically sinful to take an unqualified oath to the Constitution. Forty-one men registered their dissent to this action.

    The same requirements existed for voting as for taking an oath; prior to the 1930s, Covenanters could no more vote for someone to take an oath to the Constitution than take the oath themselves. From the 1930s to 1967, Covenanters were only able to vote for someone taking a qualified oath to the Constitution. As it stands now, I was received into membership in the RPCNA in 2003 while in the Army, after having taken an unqualified oath to the Constitution.

    I have argued that, regardless of our decline from a strict position of political dissent, the present Testimony of our church still restricts voting for candidates to virtually no one that will ever be on the ballot. But that doesn't answer the question of members themselves taking oaths to the Constitution --- the present Testimony focuses more on the qualifications of individual candidates, rather than the righteousness or unrighteousness of the U.S. Constitution.
  23. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman


    I tend to agree with your points. I believe that the US Constitution should declare Christ as King, but it does not. Does that in itself violate the precepts of Christ? I tend to think not. If a constitution did violate those precepts it would be immoral prima facie for a Christian. From the RPCNA Constitution:

    21. No civil government which deprives men of civil or religious liberty,fails to protect human life, or proposes to force men to do violence to the spirit and precepts of the Christian religion or interferes unjustly with private ownership of property, can in such matters rightfully expect the submission of its citizens or the blessings of God promised for obedience to Him.
    Acts 4:17, 19, 33; Deut. 27:19; Isa. 10:1-2; Ex. 20:15; Isa. 1:23-26; Dan. 6:13; Heb. 11:23

    As for military oaths, I believe that a version for Christians such as the Roman one described by you above or the "Explanatory Declaration" would suffice. From the RPCNA Constitution:

    11. All officers and employees of a civil government are to be servants of God for good. They are responsible to God for the discharge of lawful duties rightfully assigned to them by human authority. Neither their official position, however, nor the orders of their superiors, nor the will of the people, exonerates them from blame for any unscriptural action or inaction.
    Rom. 13:3-4; 2 Chron. 19:6-7; Prov. 29:26.

    My wish list would include: Christ the King declared in the US Constitution, ALL members of the executive, legislative and judicial branches declaring Christ the King in their oath of office. That will not happen with our fallen nature and personal sinful state, so I'm good with driving on and waiting for the return of the King....

    ---------- Post added at 04:53 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:24 PM ----------

    Thanks for the history of the political dissent issue. I agree that the present testimony of the RPCNA re voting, would restrict choices to pretty much no one in this day and age.....
  24. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Historically Covenanters believed it would happen, not because of our fallen nature but by the work of God in history. Covenanters were historically postmillennialists and believed it would indeed come to pass on earth. That doctrine is very helpful at keeping us from saying, 'well, the Covenanter ideals are nice but since they're impractical let's just be pragmatists'. I don't think its just coincidental that the decline in postmillennialism and a consistent political dissent have gone hand-in-hand in the church in our day.
  25. M21195

    M21195 Puritan Board Freshman


    Thanks for reply. Can you recommend any articles/books on Covenanter eschatology? What does the RPCNA adhere to re eschatology now?
  26. ADKing

    ADKing Puritan Board Junior

    Post-millennialism Homepage.
    See also at TRUECOVENANTER: The Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church under topics and eschatology.

    The RPCNA still includes postmillennialists and amillennialists (maybe with more amils now). The difference is that postmillennialism used to be a part of our testimony and now it is left more open. An optimistic eschatology pervades much of our earlier literature on many different subjects which indicates to me it used to hold a more important place in our overall system that it does at present.
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