June 4: The Queensferry Paper [1680]

The Most Advanced of All the Covenanting Manifestos
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was known simply as the Queensferry Paper, primarily because it was found on the body of a Covenanter in South Queensferry, Scotland on June 4, 1680.  Henry Hall was his name. He had been traveling with another Covenanter by name of Donald Cargill. Government officials had attempted to arrest both of them, but Cargill had been able to escape. Hall was wounded and later died from his wounds. Searching him, they found the six thousand word document known ever afterwards as the Queensferry Declaration. It, as Alexander Smellie stated in his book Men of the Covenant, was “the most advanced of all the covenanting manifestos.”

Summing it up by eight principles, the first principle covenanted with, and acknowledgement was made, of the Trinity and for the Bible as the rule of faith.  Consider the words! “We acknowledge and vouch the only true and living God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be our God and that we close with his way of redemption by his Son Jesus Christ, and rely upon his righteousness, as that righteousness only  whereby a man can be justified before God.” Any of our readers would easily say “Amen,” to these words. It went on to speak of their conviction that the Bible was by divine revelation and the only object of our faith and the rule of our life in all things.

The second section spoke of advancing God’s kingdom and freeing the church from both prelacy and Erastianism. The latter was removing the belief that the state was the ruler of the church in ecclesiastical matters. They desired that the members of the church would be able to serve God in holy ways without fear and that they might possess their civil rights peaceably without disturbance.

Principle number three covenanted to uphold the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, with her standards, government, worship — all independent of the state. They boldly confessed with their mouths and believed with their hearts the teaching of the reformed churches, contained in Scripture and summed up in the confession of faith.  They pledged to persevere in them to the end.

The kingdom of darkness was to be overthrown, by their fourth declaration. The aforementioned kingdom was Romanism, the Anglican church, and that system of Erastianism.   They spoke of being bound by the Solemn League and Covenant.

Next, and this was the primary part of the Queensferry document, they indicated their desire to discard the royal family and set up a republic in their stead. Of the 6000 words in the paper, this point occupied about 2100 words.  This was revolutionary in the British Isles. And it was sadly used to paint all Covenanters as being disloyal to the throne of England. The writers of this covenant wrote that in the light of Exodus 18:21, they could rule themselves.

Sixth, the paper spoke to those who, in their minds, had compromised the Scottish covenant by receiving the various deals of the government of England. They pledged not to listen to such any more in the pulpits of the kingdom.

Seventh, the covenant promised to refuse the ministerial function unless they were duly called and ordained. Thus, there were not promises of a new church, but rather a return to the true church of the past.

And the last resolution was that its adherents will defend their God-given worship and liberty. They who would assault them could be assaulted in return.  In short, this was the basis for the battles some of the Covenanters fought in Scotland.

This declaration was never published by the Covenanters themselves. It was stolen off Henry Hall’s body and passed off as the real purpose of all Presbyterians in the kingdom, those who in fact had never signed it, as they had signed previous Covenants.

Words to Live By:
There is certainly nothing wrong with advocating positions for prayer and action. But we must be careful to do so in the light of God’s Word always. From Ephesians chapter 6, our weapons are to be spiritual, never carnal. We will never know how many of Scottish Presbyterians would have signed this covenant, as in God’s permissive will, it was hindered from being presented to them nation wide. But it is still part of the overall testimony of Scotland’s spiritual history, and so we include it in Today in Presbyterian History.

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