By Rev. David T. Myers.
Do you own the Sanquhar Declaration? That question would be asked again and again by the authorities in the land of Scotland in the latter part of the seventeenth century against Presbyterians in the kingdom. If it was answered in the affirmative, then your very life was in danger, either at that very time or later.
The name of the declaration was in reference to a small town in the southwest part of Scotland. It was the very center of persecution. Fugitives from the east or west naturally passed through it for passage to safer areas. On one of its streets was a village cross to which people would affix various messages to the outside world.
It was on this day, June 22, 1680, that a band of horsemen who were heavily armed with swords and pistols rode into the town early in the morning. Led by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Richard Cameron, the group stopped, sand a psalm, prayed, and then publicly read the following declaration. It is found at the bottom of this post. There was no doubt as to what it maintained, namely, a declaration of war against the present king in London, England.
Consider its chief sentence: “Therefore, although we be for government and governors, such as the Word of God and our covenant allows; yet we, for ourselves, and all that will adhere to us as the representative of the true Presbyterian Kirk and covenanted nation of Scotland, considering the great hazard of lying under such a sin any longer, do, by these presents, disown Charles Stuart, that has been reigning, or rather tyrannizing, as we may say, on the throne of Britain these years begone, as having any right, title to, or interest in the said crown of Scotland for government.”
And further, “As also we being under the standard of our Lord Jesus Christ, Captain of salvation, and his cause and covenants, do declare 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 . . . .”
There was no doubt as to the intention of this declaration. The sword was to be taken up from its sheath and used to bring about the Presbyterian cause once and for all. There was equally no doubt as to what it proclaimed from the Crown. They, in a Proclamation on June 30, 1680 that Richard Cameron and his followers were Rebels and Traitors. Large rewards were offered for them dead or alive.
Words to Live By: Alexander Smellie in his book “Men of the Covenant” says regarding this declaration, “What had they done? They had cast off the authority of their monarch. But they had not done it in mischievous anarchy and blatant revolt. They made their adjuration a religious act. They prefaced and followed the oath of insurrection by the worship of God. Moreover, they had disavowed King Charles in the interest of King Jesus. They disobeyed the unworthy ruler, that they might obey the Ruler who is incomparable…We may not approve every phrase in their Declaration…It contends for the essentials, for a free Parliament and an unshackled Church…Its principles triumphed in 1688 (the arrival of William and Mary.“
The text of The Sanquhar Declaration:—
“The Declaration and Testimony of the True Presbyterian, Anti-prelatic, Anti-erastian, persecuted party in Scotland,” published at Sanquhar, 22 June 1680.
It is not amongst the smallest of the Lord’s mercies to this poor land, that there have been always some who have given their testimony against every cause of defection that many are guilty of; which is a token for good, that he doth not, as yet, intend to cast us off altogether, but that he will leave a remnant in whom lie will be glorious, if they. through his grace, keep themselves clean still, and walk in his way and method as it has been walked in, and owned by him in our predecessors of truly worthy memory; in their carrying on of our noble work of reformation, in the several steps thereof, from Popery, Prelacy, and likewise Erastian supremacy—so much usurped by him who, it is true, so far as we know, is descended from the race of our kings; yet he hath so far debased from what he ought to have been, by his perjury and usurpation in Church matters, and tyranny in matters civil, as is known by the whole land, that we have just reason to account it one of the Lord’s great controversies against us, that we have not disowned him, and the men of his practices, whether inferior magistrates or any other, as enemies to our Lord and his crown, and the true Protestant and Presbyterian interest in this land—our Lord’s espoused bride and Church.
Therefore, although we be for government and governors, such as the Word of God and our covenant allows; yet we, for ourselves, and all that will adhere to us as the representative of the true Presbyterian Kirk and covenanted nation of Scotland, considering the great hazard of lying under such a sin any longer, do, by these presents, disown Charles Stuart, that has been reigning, or rather tyrannizing, as we may say, on the throne of Britain these years bygone, as having any right, title to, or interest in, the said crown of Scotland for government, as forfeited, several years since, by his perjury and breach of covenant both to God and his Kirk, and usurpation of his crown and royal prerogative therein, and many other breaches in matters eccelesiastic and by his tyranny and breach of the very reges regnandi in matters civil. For which reason we declare, that several years since he should have been denuded of being king, ruler, or magistrate, or of having any power to act or to be obeyed as such.
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 strengthened him, sided with, or anywise acknowledged him in his tyranny, civil or ecclesiastic; yea, against all such as shall strengthen, side with, or anywise acknowledge any other in like usurpation and tyranny-far more against such as would betray or deliver up our free reformed mother Kirk unto the bondage of Antichrist, the Pope of Rome.
And, by this, we homologate that testimony given at Rutherglen, the 29th of May 1679, and all the faithful testimonies of those who have gone before, as also of those who have suffered of late, and we do disclaim that Declaration published at Hamilton, June 1679, chiefly because it takes in the king’s interest, which we are several years since loosed from, because of the aforesaid reasons, and others which may, after this, if the Lord will, be published.
As also, we disown and by this resent the reception of the Duke of York, that professed Papist, as repugnant to our principles and vows to the Most High God, and as that which is the great, though not alone, just reproach of our Kirk and nation. We also, by this, protest against his succeeding to the crown, and whatever has been done, or any are essaying to do in this land, given to the Lord, in prejudice to our work of reformation. And to conclude, we hope. after this, none will blame us for, or offend at, our rewarding those that are against as they have done to us, as the Lord gives opportunity. This is not to exclude any that have declined, if they be willing to give satisfaction according to the degree of their offence.