William Symington Penman of the Scottish Covenanters

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The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I am going to post things from the book by which the title of this thread comes from ever now and again.


Symington the Covenanter Historian

Symington's interest in communicating the priciples of the Convenanters also led him to speak frequently on the Covenanter martyrs, such as Richard Cameron and the two Margarets of Wigtown. Often these messages were delivered outdoors at the site where a certain martyr was killed. Some of these gatherings were attended by between 1,000 and 3,000 people, and lasted as long as four hours.

Symington's stated purpose for his martyr messages was to revive Scotland's attachment to the Scottish Reformation, to rescue their character and claims from those who were denigrating them, and furthermore to instruct the public in "the history and principles of the magnanimous struggle for religion and liberty."9 He explained how the Covenanter martyrs were not flawless persons, they were, nonetheless, faithful believers who shed their blood in testimony for Jesus' rights as King of kings and Head of the church. Symington used their testimonies to instruct his own generation in those same biblical convicitons.

(9) William Symington, " The Character and Claims of the Scottish Covenaters" (in Discoursese on Public Occasions [Glasgow: David Bryce, 1851]) ,72.

May we do likewise in reminding our children.

Taken from
William Symington
Penman of the Scottish Covenanters

More to come. I love this mans life as it is a testimony to Christ and His Kingship.

Also if someone wanted to get a brief understanding of what the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) is about you could find this out with this books very brief and historical teaching concerning it and it's preceding covenants and how the Kirk (or Church) viewed the Monarchies responsibility to rule under Christ's Headship. It is a word for word copy of the Scottish National Covenant of 1638 but expanded and updated to address the reformational needs for all three countries, Ireland, England, and Scotland.

I really highly recommend it.

Also Chris Coldwell has republished some of this stuff through Westminster Letter Press.
Broadside: The Solemn League & Covenant | Westminster Letter Press.

Updates and quotes to come.

They Kingdome Come.... Thy Will be done.

For Christ's Kingdom and Covenant.

R. Martin Snyder
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Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you for that recommendation. I have been fascinated by the Covenanters especially now since I have traced my ancestry back to Scotland--at least to about the early 1700's. I am trying to find out if any of my ancestors were Covenanters. :detective:

D. Paul

Puritan Board Sophomore
It is about this time that we lament we no longer have Virginia Hugenot around here.


The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Having read a few things on William Symington, I must say that everytime I read something again I always see new things. I am finding myself rereading portions again and again. That is the blessing of reading things more than once. I sure have appreciated this book in the same way. I have not seen Symington in this light before. This book has filled in historical gaps that I wasn't clear on. I took certain things for granted. I now understand what is meant by the 1st and 2nd Reformations. Both consist of a period of time that are made up of a 150 years, one right after the other. The first was more concerning the reformation of the Church. The second came out of a period of persecution and dealt more with the relationship between the Civil Government and the Church.

I am also learning more about the roles that Societies played in the church. I had read about the Bible Societies and never really understood what they were. I just took it for granted that the Societies were more or less parallel to our parachurch ministries. I had read quite a few biographies where the persons written about were participants of this or that Society without ever really considering why the Societies existed. This book brought that to light for me.

After the Ejection of the ministers from their pulpits during the 1660's's and the years after, those who wouldn't participate in the State ordained Church gathered into non ecclesiatical Societies to worship and preach. Since the King denounced the Solemn League and Covenant and refused to place himself under the Rule of Christ, the Covenanters formed themselves into Societies so that they could fellowship and assemble in good conscience. Much of the time it was under heavy persecution known as the Killing Times. In the end, those Covenanter Societies became what we know as the Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1743.

I am obviously leaving out a lot. So I really recommend you get the book.

William Symington was born after much of this. He brought to life much of what the two reformations worked for. He had a very successful ministry during his years. International ministry was important to him. One of the names you might know and have heard is the famous missionary John G. Paton. John G. Paton was a member of William Symington's congregation and was employed as a home missionary under Symington's Sabbath School Program.

Symington had a great influence upon every sort of man, political, rich, poor, etc. He was very interested in teaching the scriptures and the reign of Christ. It took on all sorts of shades and endeavors. He was used of God for just plain educating those who would attend and learn how to read. So he started elementary reading and mathmetical programs beside his Sabbath School endeavors to teach the youth of Scotland.

Anyways, here is the next small tidbit from the book that I want to bring to light. I think it is profound and that our modern day church could really benefit from this very short piece of wisdom and direction.

Undergirding and overflowing from all Symington's many endeavors in the Great Hamilton Street congregation is the enthusiasm and confidence of a man fully persuaded that his Saviour is on the Throne - and that it is a Throne over a vast dominion. Writing for the Reformed Presbyterian Magazine in 1859, Symington made this vision behind his labors explicit.

The grand distincitve point for which we have long been testifying is the royalty of Jesus Christ as the heaven-ordained ruler of men, and we cannot but think that we are in the most practical manner working out that testimony when, in our different spheres, we labour to bring everyone around us under the government of Him whose enthronement in the minds of men will make righteousness and praise spring forth before all nations.

Reformed Presbyterian Magazine, June 1859,194
Symington was not seeking church growth, or social welfare, or even world missions as an ends in and of themselves. Symington had fixed his heart clearly and decisively to "seek ye first the Kingdom" (Matt. 6:33). Deep reflection upon the universality and redemptive purposes of Christ's reign had kindled within his soul a love for seeing Messiah's royal prerogatives pressed into all these fields and more. And thus "seeking first the kingdom," indeed "all these things [were] added" to Symington and the Great Hamilton Street Congregation.

Please forgive me if my writing (commenting) is cumbersome and out of accord with this book. I hope I am reading it correctly and shining a bit of its treasure.
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