Thursday, March 27, 2014

Persecuted for Theonomy? Charles II Targets Scottish Covenanters for Advocating the Judicial Laws of Moses

Charles II: Enemy of theonomy and persecutor of the
Scottish Covenanters

by Steve C. Halbrook
(special thanks for the insights and information of Vindiciae Legis that made this article possible)

In the recent article titled Covenanter TheonomyVindiciae Legis shows how the historic Scottish Covenanters believed that the judicial laws of Moses are perpetually binding on civil rulers. This article is highly recommended to those who want a better historic understanding of both the Scottish Covenanters and the acceptance of theonomy in history. 

In this article, a brief account of the Solway Martyrs is given. This was simply an intro to help readers understand the troubled times and circumstances which the Covenanters experienced during the Killing Times, when John Cargill and others produced the Queensferry Paper.

Some have misunderstood Vindiciae Legis to have been saying that the Solway Martyrs were martyred for advocating the Judicial Laws of Moses. However, this misunderstanding does raise an interesting questionwas advocating the judicial laws of Moses a reason for the persecution of the Scottish Covenanters? 
In a proclamation, Charles II
attacks prominent Covenanters
for wanting to set up their
own rulers who would govern
"according to the Judicial
Law of Moses."

Let's see what their actual persecutor, Charles II, has to say.

In a proclamation written in his nametitled "A Proclamation: Declaring Mr. Richard Cameron, and others, Rebels and Traitors, &c" (June 30th, 1680)Charles II rails against several prominent Covenanters for the supposedly treasonous act of rejecting his sovereignty for their own rulers who would govern "according to the Judicial Law of Moses":
CHARLES, by the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, To ________ Our Lyon King at Arms, and his Brethren, Heralds, Macers, Pursevants, and Messengers at Arms, our Sheriffs in that part, conjunctly, and severally, specially constitute, Greeting: Forasmuch, as Mr. Richard Cameron, _______Cameron his Brother, Mr. Thomas Douglas, Mr. Donald Cargill, and others their Accomplices, Have now at last shaken off all respect to Our Laws, and their Allegiance itself to Us their undoubted Sovereign, and have entered into express and open Combinates and Covenants, wherein they most Sacrilegiously do by a solemn Oath, Engage themselves to disown Us and Our Authority, and declare it not only lawful, but a Christian duty upon all Our Subjects to rise in Arms against Us, and to Murder [Covenanters saw it as self-defense, S.H.][1] such as are in any Trust or Employment under Us, declaring Us an Usurper, and that none should obey them who are in Authority under Us, but such as would obey the Devil and his Vice-gerents; and that they will choose and set up Magistrates, who shall govern them according to the Judicial Law of Moses, and not according to the Laws made by Us or any of our Predecessors. Which Covenant, with several most Impious, Scandalous, and Seditious Pamphlets, were taken from the said Mr. Donald Cargil, (one of their Preachers) at the Queens Ferry, upon the Third day of June instant. ... [2] 
Another proclamation was issued on November 22, 1680, also condemning Covenanters for disowning Charles II as king, and wanting to set up magistrates who rule according to the judicial law.[3]  

An excerpt of Charles II's proclamation

A copy of the Queensferry Paper, prefaced with anti-
Covenanter propaganda

So then it is beyond dispute that Charles II made the advocacy of the judicial laws of Moses a reason for persecuting the Covenanters. Of course, there is the matter of Charles II's credibility: he was a very wicked man, and it wouldn't be beneath him to use falsehoods as a pretext to persecute the CovenantersCould he have made up the part about the judicial law?

Again, as Vindiciae Legis has already shown in his article Covenanter Theonomy, the Covenanters did in fact believe that the judicial law was binding on all nations. This is the historical Covenanter view. And we must note that in his proclamation, Charles II bases his evidence for the Covenanters wanting to set up magistrates "who shall govern them according to the Judicial Law of Moses" on the confiscated Queensferry Paper, written by Covenanters Henry Hall and Donald Cargill (the latter the Declaration singles out by name).[4] This paper confirms Charles II's allegations. It reads:
Moreover we declare, that those men whom we shall set over us, shall be engaged to govern us principally by that civil and judicial law (we think none will be so ignorant as to think, by the judicial law we mean that which is ceremonial or typical) given by God to his people of Israel, no man, we think, doubting, but it must be the best so far as it goes, being given by God.[5] 
Now, it is true that the available copies of the Queensferry Paper have ultimately  come to us via Charles II or his agents. Theoretically, then, aspects of it could have been falsified. Concerning its statements about the judicial law, however, this seems unlikely: consider the following statements by Donald Cargill from a lecture that could not have been filtered by Charles II:
We shall say this one word more, there is one Great Thing Folk stumbles at in that Paper [the Queensferry Paper] that Kings ought to Rule or Judge according to the Judicial Law; and that these Laws Kings ought to Rule by, ought to be according to the Word of GOD, And think ye this a Great Wrong? The People of GOD was ruled Two Hundred Years and upwards by this Law only, and can any be fitter to be a Law-Giver than GOD?…So the Law of GOD should be our Law. Where the Law of GOD is received [is] where Christians are; Let Christians go to the Law which GOD has found out; And let Heathens and Turks go to the Law that Nature finds out (italics and capitalization as in original).[6]  
All things considered, it does
appear that the Covenanters were
persecuted - at least in part - for
advocating the judicial laws
of Moses. As such, they stood
as a shining example of
standing firm for Christ.[9]
Since Cargill affirms independently of the Queensferry Paper that all rulers are bound to the judicial law, the most that can be said about Charles II possibly fabricating statements about the judicial law is the part about the Covenanters setting up their own government that governs according to the judicial law: perhaps, even though they believed that rulers must adhere to the judicial law, they were still willing to submit to rulers without such convictions.

Vindiciae Legis makes the following helpful comments:
The Covenanters were certainly casting off Charles II's tyranny/authority and encouraging others to do the same. You can see from the Sanquhar Declaration[7] that they felt that they, and the rest of the nation, had sinned in not doing this earlier.
On the other hand, my guess is that they saw rulers who would enforce the judicial law as the ideal scenario and that they would have been content with a King who would swear to the Solemn League and Covenant and National Covenant. ...
Also, they wouldn't have seen themselves as having the authority to appoint a king without the consent of the rest of the nation. Even so, I doubt if Charles II thought the wording of the Proclamation was an exaggeration.[8]
All things considered, it does indeed appear that the Covenanters were persecuted—at least in part—for advocating the judicial laws of Moses. Charles II flattered himself as ruling by Divine Right and thus hated any such advocacy, which would place impossible restrictions on his freedom to rule as he would. He either genuinely saw it as the primary reason why the Covenanters were rejecting his monarchy, or at least as useful propaganda to justify his actions and motivate his supporters to carry out his harsh decrees against the Covenanters. Perhaps both. 

Indeed, tyrants hate the Bible's civil code; it reminds them that they are not the highest political authority, but it is rather Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. They would have us believe, like the apostate Jews who wanted Jesus crucified, that "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15a). They would neither have a rival for their authority, nor those who advocate such a rival.

While advocating the judicial laws of Moses for civil government (particularly insofar as they conform to the moral law) is unpopular today, let us not enable the cause of tyranny by being embarrassed of them or by disdaining them. Rather, let us heed the example of the Covenanters, and stand firm for the cause of Christ.


[1] What Charles II considers incitement to murder, the Covenanters considered self defense and protection of the Reformed Church. This comes out both in the Queensferry Paper and Sanquhar Declaration:
"We bind and oblige our selves to defend our selves, and one another in our worshipping of God, and in our natural, civil and divine Rights and Liberties,...we shall look on it, as a declaring War,...and seek to cause to perish, all that shall, in an hostile Manner, assault us,...but not to trouble or injure any, but those that have injured us,..."(Queensferry Paper, under "Eighthly" )
"As also, we being under the Standard of our Lord Jesus Christ, Captain of Salvation, do declare a War with such a Tyrant and Usurper, and all the Men of his Practices, as Enemies to our Lord Jesus Christ, and his Cause and Covenants; and against all such as have strengthned him, sided with, or any wise acknowledged him in his Tyranny Civil or Ecclesiastick, yea, against all such as shall strengthen, side with, or any wise acknowledge any other in the like Usurpation and Tyranny, far more against such as would betray or deliver up our free reformed Motherkirk unto the Bondage of Antichrist the Pope of Rome." (Sanquhar Declaration)
[2] "A Proclamation: Declaring Mr. Richard Cameron, and others, Rebels and Traitors, &c" (London: Andrew Forrester, 1680). Retrieved March 18, 2014 from
[3] Robert Wodrow, The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, from the Restauration to the Revolution: Volume II (Edinburgh: James Watson, 1722), appendix 50, 51.
[4] The Proclamation's statement: "Scandalous, and Seditious Pamphlets, were taken from the said Mr. Donald Cargil" is incorrect. The Queensferry Paper was actually found on the person of Henry Hall. Wodrow, The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland: Volume II, 136.  
[5] John C. Johnston, Treasury of the Scottish Covenant (Edinburgh, 1887), 138, This work gives the complete text of the Queensferry Paper. The text is also available online at “Welcome to the Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church Homepage,” True Covenanter, accessed February 15, 2012,
[6] A Lecture upon 2 Chronicles 19th Chapter, First and Second Verses,”  A Lecture and Sermon Preached at Different Times by that Faithful and Painful Minister of the Gospel, and now Glorified Martyr Mr. Donald Cargill (n.p., n.d.), 10. Online at: “A Lecture and Sermon….” True Covenanter, accessed February 15, 2012
[7] Wodrow, The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland: Volume II, 47, 48. 
[8] Vindiciae Legis, in an email dated March 21, 2014.
[9] This picture is of James Guthrie, a Covenanter martyred in 1661, about twenty years prior to Charles II's 1680 proclamation. The picture is not intended to say that Guthrie was executed for advocating the judicial law, but to symbolize the Covenanters' persecution in regards to our topic.

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