September 4: Death of Beatrix Umpherston, lead writer of Children’s Covenant  (1686)

Children’s Covenant

Our post today is set in the context of the small devotional groups which arose in central and southern Scotland after the death of Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill (see July 22 and July 27). They were known as the Society People of Scotland, and we will consider their existence on December 15.  For now, this was a family oriented commitment to faith and devotion in Christ. It so permeated their spiritual lives that even the youngest of their families had a sincere belief in that faith and life.  And nowhere is this seen better than what has been called the Children’s Bond.

Fourteen young girls, the oldest of them around ten years of age, came together in Pentland outside of Edinburgh to commit  themselves to God and His Word.  One of them, Beatrix Umpherston, is thought to be the originator of the bond made between them. Precious is personal faith by any Christian, but especially precious is this seen in young girls at the dawn of their teenage years. The Bond is worth reprinting in full, as a witness to all ages.

“This is a Covenant made between the Lord and us, with our whole hearts, and to give up ourselves freely to Him without reserve, soul and body, hearts and affections, to be  His children and Him to be our God and Father, if it please the Lord to send His gospel to the land again, that we stand to this Covenant which we have written, between the Lord and us, as we shall answer at that great day. That we shall never break this Covenant which we have made between the Lord and us, that we shall stand to this Covenant which we have made; and if not, it shall be a witness against us in the great day when we shall stand before the Lord and his holy angels. O Lord, give us real grace in our hearts this day to mind Zion’s breaches which are in such low case this day: and make us mourn with her, for Thou hast said them t hat mourn with her in the time of trouble shall rejoice when she rejoiceth, when the Lord shall bring back t he captivity of Zion, when he shall deliver her out of her enemies’ hand, when her King shall come and raise her from the dust, in spirit of all her enemies that oppose  her, either devils or men. That thus, they have banished their King, Christ out of the land, yet he will arise and avenge His childrens’ blood at her enemies’ hands, which cruel murderers have shed.”

On the back of the written Covenant were found these words: “Them that will not stand to every article of this Covenant which we have made betwixt the Lord and us, that they shall not go to the Kirk to hear any of those soul-murdering curates we will neither speak nor converse with them. Any that break this Covenant, they shall never come into our Society.  We shall declare before the Lord that have bound ourselves in Covenant, to be covenanted to  Him all the days of our life, to be His children and Him to be our Covenanted Father.”

And then: “We subscribe with our hands these presents — Beatrix Umpherston, Margaret Galloway, Helen Moutray, Janet Brown, Helen Straiton, Helen Clark,  Marion Swan, Janet Swan, Margaret Brown, Janet Brown, Isobel Craig, Margaret McMoren, Martha Logan, Christian Laurie, Agnes Aitken.

It would be neat to trace the development of each young person who signed this Covenant.  We only have discovered one follow-up, that of the first signer, Beatrice Umpherston.  He eventually married a Covenanter pastor by the name of John M’Neil.  God gave  her a long life in service for Christ.  She died when she was 90 years old, on this day, September 4, 1763 and was buried in Old Pentland Cemetery, Scotland.

Words to Live By:
Is there not a spiritual lesson for us readers today, pastors or lay people?  If the church is to recover her spiritual soul and be a powerhouse for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, then she must surely work toward,  and pray for, a family faith in the Triune God to be existent in our homes.  Fathers and Mothers of This Day in Presbyterian History, is your family  setting the Lord Jesus first in all that you believe and do?  Pastors and Ministers of This Day in Presbyterian History, is your congregation aiding the family to be Christian families in the world today?  Would/Could any similar covenant by our children and teenagers today be similar in commitment as this Chrildren’s Bond was written?  Lord God, we pray for the Christian families of America, and especially those represented by our Presbyterian churches.

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  1. Bob Vincent’s avatar

    Beatrix Umpherston was born in 1673 and died on February 27, 1763.

    When I read this moving account, my sense of historical perspective was disturbed because there is simply no way that Beterick Uumperston, aka Beatrix Umpherston, could have died in 1686. The Children’s Covenant was subscribed to in 1683, during “The Killing Time.” That caused me to do a bit of research and I came across the folllowing.

    “The first name appended to the Covenant is Beatrix Umpherston, daughter of Helen Alexander. At the date of the Covenant, 1683, Beatrix Umpherston was a child of 10 years of age. She became the wife of the Rev. John McNeil.” (“Appendix, Note A: The Children’s Covenant” p. 68-69 (Helen Alexander (1869) _Passages in the lives of Helen Alexander and James Currie of Pentland, and other papers. Printed for family use, from original manuscripts and papers in the possession of Francis Umpherston, Esq., Elmswood, Loanhead. [With a genealogical table.]_ (Belfast: Marcus Ward & Co. Ulster Works) )

    Two pages earlier, on page 66 of this work, one finds the inscription on the tombs of Pastor M’Neil, his wife Beatrix, and their son James:

    “Here lies the dust of Mr. JOHN McNEIL Preacher of the Gospel at Loanhead; who died 10th Decr 1732, in the 66th year of his age. A faithful adherent of the Covenanted Testimony of the Church of Scotland in Principle & Practice and a constant Witness against Defection from said Testimony. Also the dust of BEATRIX UMPHERSTON his Spouse who died Febr 27th 1763 in the 90th year of her Age. And of JAMES McNEIL their son who died Novr 24th 1748 in the 36th year of his age.” (_Ibid_. “Inscriptions on the Tombstones at Pentland,” p. 66 ()

  2. archivist’s avatar

    Thank you, Bob, for your alert reading. It looks like we were misled by another Beatrix Umpherston, named no doubt in honor of the former. See http://scotfot.smugmug.com/Scottish-gravestones-and/Midlothian/Old-Pentland-Midlothian/i-GwZMvQn/A for what is perhaps but one such example of honor placed upon the former name. A better document to have consulted would have been http://www.mocavo.com/Passages-in-the-Lives-of-Helen-Alexander-and-James-Currie-of-Pentland-and-Other-Papers-Printed-for-Family-Use-From-Original-Manuscripts-and-Papers-in-the-Possession-of-Francis-Umpherston-Esq-Elmswood-Loanhead-With-a-Genealogical-Table/112610/78

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