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The Effects of the Covenanters’ Struggle Outside Scotland

11/07/2013

The Effects of the Covenanters’ Struggle Outside Scotland

What of the ‘success’ of the Covenanting Movement? Such a concept is extremely difficult to quantify. Their struggle lasted for over fifty years; their movement was at times almost wiped out by bitter persecution and death, and diluted by division and indulgences. Yet they persevered right through to the end, and their struggle played a large part in the social revolution that brought William to the throne and secured the civil and religious liberties, which we enjoy today. In the Diaspora that the persecution of the Covenanters brought about, their influence was brought to bear on other nations, and in this context we must consider two other issues:

England
In England Separatism and Independency took heart from Scotland’s struggle. Presbyterianism never became a major force among the English Churches, but the Calvinism upon which Presbyterianism is founded found expression among the Particular Baptists, and among some Congregationalists. The contribution of the Covenanters to the removal of the Stuart dynasty, and the establishment of William III on the throne is without dispute. Under the united rule of William and the settlement that his reign brought, the English Calvinists gained the peace and toleration that were needed to develop and grow.

Ireland
Ireland had its own persecution of Presbyterians, and it had its own killing time. It suffered under Laud, as did Scotland. The Solemn League and Covenant was written with the purpose of bring religious conformity, under Presbyterianism, to Ireland, as well as to England and Scotland.

Between the two nations there was a continual movement of population, as Christians fled the persecutions in each of the territories. Peden was just one example of this. He spend time in Antrim on more than one occasion when fleeing from the persecutors. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland was in existence in Bangor, Templepatrick and Holywood from shortly after the beginning of the seventeenth century, under Ussher, but more formally as a Presbyterian denomination from after the signing of the Solemn league and Covenant, which was brought to Ireland to be signed and subscribed. The earliest congregations were in the Carrickfergus area, and ministers were trained in Scotland. Under this influence, the (later) State of Northern Ireland became, and is until this day the most God – fearing part of the United Kingdom.

Jock Purves points out that Ulster is a Covenanting triumph. Puritans and Covenanters settled in Ulster in their thousands, and it was right that Covenanters and Puritans in Ulster should strike the last crushing blows against Stuart Romanism at Londonderry, Enniskillen and the Boyne. “It is not political partition only that is in Ireland. It is that between people and people; people with the open Bible and pure evangelical faith and a power that would draw them back again into a dense darkness from which there has been a merciful deliverance.

West Indies & America
Many of the imprisoned Covenanters were deported to the New World, to the West Indies, Barbados and Southern Carolina, where they were sold as slaves, to labour in the tobacco plantations. Those who were fortunate enough to make their way to a Quaker settlement were instantly freed, for to their eternal credit, the Quakers never used slave labour.

From these Quakers, and from Godly Puritans, the slaves from Africa would have heard the gospel. However the main influence toward salvation in Christ, from the human standpoint would have been from their fellow sufferers and fellow prisoners. The Scottish Psalm-singers took to the new world their faith in Christ, and witnessed fervently to their fellow captives, many of who accepted the Lord as their Saviour. In the native Africa of these black slaves there was no tradition of Gospel Singing, comparable with the Negro Spirituals of the southern American states. Yet perhaps in their words and their metres, there is a slight similarity to the metrical psalms of Scotland. Who can say, but perhaps from this faithful Scottish influence developed a whole culture of Gospel music and singing, and perhaps even the deeply embedded faith of the Southern black population.

To the mainland of America many Covenanters and Presbyterians travelled as emigrants, both from Scotland and from Northern Ireland. These ‘Ulster Scotch’ folk became the backbone of modern America. They worked the land, conquered the West and became some of the most influential people in the land. Presbyterian congregations flourished, ministers were appointed and theological seminaries built.

From → Covenanters

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