A Final Covenant
Twenty-eight Presbyterians signed a final covenant on the eve of their departure from Leith, Scotland in early September, 1685. It said in part,
“That, now to leave their own native and Covenanted land by an unjust sentence of banishment for owning truth and standing by duty, studying to keep their Covenantal engagements and baptismal vows, whereby they stand obliged to resist and testify against all that is contrary to the Word of God and their Covenants; and that their sentence of banishment ran chiefly because they refused the oath of allegiance which in conscience they could not take, because in so doing they thought utterly declined the Lord Jesus Christ from having any power in His own house, and practically would by taking it, say, ‘He is not King and Head of His Church and over their consciences.’ And, on the contrary, this was to take and put in His room a man whose breadth was in his nostrils; yea, a man who is a sworn enemy to religion; an avowed papist, whom, by our Covenants; we are bound to withstand and disown, and that agreeable to Scripture: ‘When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shall possess it and shall dwell therein, and shalt say, I will see a King over me, like as all the nations that are about me, thou shalt in any wise set him King over thee, whom the Lord thy God shalt choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set King over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. Deut. 17:14, 15.”
To this final covenant, they signed their names.
It is not known to countless Christians today that many Presbyterians were carried from their beloved land of Scotland to the shores of this America, not as free immigrants, but as slaves. Slaves? Yes, slaves! The black African was not the only race to be transported to the new world as slaves. Joining them in that cruel trade were white Covenanters, who were removed from prisons all over the British isles, all for the sole reason that they refused to take an oath of allegiance to the King and failed to recognize the King’s authority over the church of Scotland.
On this occasion, the twenty-eight who signed the last covenant and another ninety seven Covenanters left on September 5, 1685 on the war ship “Henry and Frances” for landfall at Perth Amboy New Jersey. It was a terrible journey with the ship carrying leaks, shortages of food and water, fever among the prisoners, resulting in 31 of the number dying and buried at sea. The captain of the ship was very cruel. When worship services were attempted to be held in the hold, the captain would throw wooden planks down to disrupt the services and injure the worshipers.
When they arrived at their destination in New Jersey, the inhabitants of Perth Amboy were inhospitable to them. However inhabitants of a further town inland, thought to be Woodbridge, received them and cared for their needs. Eventually they were able to find employment according to their gifts, not as slaves, but as free people.
Words to Live By:
Still other Covenanters continued to serve as slaves in places like South Carolina and the Barbados, which raises an interesting question. From where did the African slaves hear the Gospel of the Lord Jesus? Certainly their home land did not have it. Many believe, and studies have been made on the question, that they heard it from their fellow slaves, the Covenanters. May we who live in increasingly difficult days in these United States, with biblical Christianity under attack from all directions, remember the example of the early Covenanters, and be faithful to stand up for the gospel by our lips and lives, wherever the Lord may take us. Moreover, should the Lord take us into difficult places, may we remember that He has us there for a great purpose.