Covenanters

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He Gained the Martyr’s Crown

The enemies of the Covenanters had very long memories. Long after sermons were preached or actions taken, the authorities in Scotland remembered words and actions against them. Such was the case with a young minister by the name of Hugh McKail.

A child of the manse, from Bothwell, Scotland, his pastor father was one of those forced out of his pulpit and parish when he refused to conform to Prelacy.  Little is known of young Hugh’s early days, but he did go to Edinburgh for education. There he was soon marked out as a young man of exceptional ability. For that, upon graduation, he was chosen to be a chaplain and tutor of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir James Stewart. In that Covenanter home, he would sit at the feet of those in leadership positions in the church and learn of the dire situation facing both the church and the state.

In 1661, he applied to the Presbytery for licensure in the ministry. Preaching in a variety of situations, he was quickly recognized by his hearers for his great ability in the Word of God. However, his ministry soon came to an end as it became obvious that he wouldn’t compromise his convictions, just as his father before him.  Preaching his last sermon in a church in Edinburgh, he had a sentence in it which marked him for remembrance by the Prelate forces of his day. He said, “the Church is persecuted by a Pharaoh on the throne, a Haman in the State, and a Judas in the Church.” The identification was obvious to all in the pews that day.

Forced to leave his beloved Scotland, the young twenty-six year old would spend the next three years in Holland. On his return to Scotland, the situation had not improved any and there was a spark of rebellion in the air. That spark was ignited, as my post on November 28 indicated, at the Battle of Rullion Green. Hugh McKail was among the nine hundred in the Covenanter ranks that day. But his own physical weakness removed him before that great battle arrived, and he traveled to Edinburgh instead. There he was arrested by the authorities, not so much for his Covenanter attachments as for his statement made in that Edinburgh church some years before.

Interrogated in prison, he was placed in the Boot, a fearful torture device which all but crushed his leg while he remained silent in voice. He was ordered to die by hanging on December 22, 1666. His exact words that day of death have been preserved through the ages. They were:

Farewell father, mother, friends, and relations; Farewell the world and its delights; farewell meat and drink; farewell sun, moon, and starts; Welcome God and Father; welcome sweet Jesus Christ the mediator of the New Covenant; welcome blessed Spirit of grace, the God of all consolation; welcome glory, welcome eternal life; welcome death!  Into Thy Hands I commit my spirit.”

Words to Live By:
Could Hugh McKail have compromised his convictions and avoided suffering and death? Certainly, and many did. But this young man  was reared by a parent who by his example remained steadfast to the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. With such an example like that, it is no wonder the young minister was given over to sacrifice, in loyalty to both the Living and Written Word, come what may to his physical body. Addressing all parents reading these posts on Presbyterian history: Your life preaches all the week. Are those in your family being helped or hindered to follow the Living and Written Word?

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The story of the Covenanters defeated at Bothwell Bridge and sent aboard the Crown of London as slaves is a sobering story. There are pictures on the web of the monument on the coast of Orkney near the sea as well as the Covenanter Fountain in Kirkland.

Covenanters in the Crown of London

Following the disastrous Battle at Bothwell Bridge on June 22, 1679, in which Covenanters were defeated in the battle, close to 1200 Covenanter prisoners were taken to Edinburgh and imprisoned in a make shift, open air prison next to Greyfriars Kirk (church). Some were tortured and killed immediately. Others died of natural conditions due to the harsh conditions of the site. Others were pardoned and set free under the August 14th Act of Indemnity that same year. But our attention today focuses in on the approximately 257 alleged ringleaders, including Covenanter ministers, who were sentenced to be shipped to the West Indies or Virginia as white slaves. Setting sail from Leith, Scotland, on the prison ship, Crown of London, on November 27, 1679, they sailed only a short while before bad weather forced them into a port.

Despite warnings from the locals to not attempt to sail, they had hardly cleared the land mass when the ship lost its anchor on December 10, 1679, striking rocks off of Dearness.The captain, Thomas Teddico, described as a profane, cruel wretch, ordered the crew to escape by chopping down the mast and riding it to the shore. The prisoners in the hold, who had their hatches chained to prevent them from escaping, were left to their own straits. All of them perished, with the exception of around 50 who were enabled to escape by means of a ax which one prisoner had with him. During  the next several days, bodies of the dead prisoners washed up at the beaches, and subsequently were buried in the area.

Of those who managed to escape, six prisoners were caught and shipped to the Barbados as slaves. Eight other Covenanters were shipped to the English plantations in Virginia. Some escaped to Ulster. At least two families in the port area claimed to be descended from a few Covenanters who stayed where they landed.

orkneyOn August 22, 1888, a majestic granite monument [pictured at right] was erected about 300 yards from the spot where the Crown of London went down. It has the following memorial etched on its side: “Erected by public subscription to the memory of 200 Covenanters who were taken prisoner at Bothwell Bridge and sentenced to transportation for life, but who perished by shipwreck near this spot, 10th December 1679.” Another memorial is found in nearby Kirkwall and is known as the Covenanter Water Fountain, built just two years later in 1890 due to excess funds left over from the original monument.

Words to Live By:
Our spiritual forefathers suffered much for the Savior in their battles to win the Reformation. They deserve to be remembered by all Presbyterians everywhere for their sacrifices for the kingdom of Christ. In  so remembering, you the reader may be informed that black African slaves were not the only ones shipped to these shores. White slaves — Covenanter slaves — also were sent to our shores. Don’t forget their sacrifices. Remember their sacrifices as we approach the coming year.

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A Presbyterian Soldier In Service to  His Country

In these posts on Presbyterian History, Wayne Sparkman and I have written several posts on the remarkable Junkin family of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. They were Covenanters, and later members of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. When a church of the latter denomination was not found where they lived, they joined the closest Presbyterian church of any stripe.  Stalwart patriots in peace time and war time, two Junkins fought in the Revolutionary War as well as in the War of 1812.

Now we come to the third generation of patriotic Junkins who fought in the Civil War, on both the Union and Confederate sides. Two Junkin brothers on the Union side were killed, one at Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862 and another at Spotsylvania, Virginia in 1864. Our post today deals with Bingham Findley Junkin, who enlisted in Mercer County, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1864. He entered as a private in a company of fellow Covenanters and Presbyterians known as the One Hundredth Pennsylvania “Roundheads” Regiment. Even though he only fought in the closing battles of the war, he wrote a remarkable diary, which reveals the kind of  Christian Presbyterian he was.

First, it was obvious that Bingham Findlay Junkin believed that the Bible was God’s Word, and occupied his waking hours in study, reading, and meditation. On Sunday, March 13, 1864, Bingham wrote, “. . . I spent the day as much as circumstances would permit in reading my Bible and thinking upon its many precious promises.” On another Sabbath, April 3, he wrote, “I make it a rule to read a portion of scripture every day, although I cannot have any set time; have to be guided by circumstances in a great measure, but always try if possible to read a chapter just before going to sleep.” It is clear that the Bible was the constant companion of this Civil War soldier and not just something to put into his pocket as a mere good luck charm.

The Sabbath was God’s time to worship by attending joint services, to listen to the Word of God as proclaimed by the Army chaplains, and to pray with others of like precious faith. Towards that end, it is clear that Bingham Junkin wanted the Sabbath to be observed rightly, not filling it with activities which took away from this religious day. On more than one occasion, such as April 10, 1864, Junkin wrote “We had dress parade at five o’clock, 30 minutes, something I think is entirely out of place, to thus desecrate the Sabbath.” Further, “I have and will continue to speak against (Sabbath parades), for I think it is very wrong to ask God’s blessing on our army and then willfully disobey him is a mockery. Can we expect a blessing?” On another Sabbath, April 17th, he wrote, “No dress parade today. This is as it should be, there is not the least shadow of excuse for our armies parading on the Sabbath, when lying in camp.” He worshiped the God of his fathers and mentioned that several times, appreciating the Word preached and the prayer meetings which were held.

Bingham Junkin had a firm grasp of God’s sovereignty. On Sunday, April 3, 1864, the Union soldier wrote an entry which acknowledged that “God rules; and that he doeth all things well. Oh how comforting the thought that we have such a God to go to, and make all our wants known unto him.” Another entry on March 25th reads, “Oh, how much grace the Christian soldier needs and how comforting the thought that God reigns everywhere.”

He was forever praising and acknowledging the providence of God, in granting him many examples of Fatherly care over him. On March 27, after hearing two sermons from two chaplains, he wrote, “Oh, how pleasant when separated from the endearment of home to enjoy such privileges. How good God is to provide for the instruction and comfort of his people under every circumstances.” On March 29, he penned, “How good in the Lord to all those that put their trust in him.  He is ever nigh to them that call upon him.” Or April 3, “Oh how comforting the thought that we have such a God to go to; and make all our wants known unto him.” His diary entry for May 6th has a sentence which indicates he was in actual battle when he wrote “through the goodness of God I was spared for which I feel thankful.” And again, May 15, “The Lord has been very gracious to me in preserving my health and sparing my life.” Or May 25, he “shot at and was shot at by the Rebs but by the infinite mercy of God my life was spared, altho the bullets frequently came near me, but in God alone is our help to be found.” On June 3 are found the words “The Lord alone can protect and preserve life and may he enable us all to be thankful for his care over us.”

It was at Petersburg on this day, June 17, that God allowed Bingham Junkin to be wounded in the right thigh, which shattered his hip bone. After medical care at home and in hospitals, he returned to the front and was discharged from there when Lee surrendered on July 8, 1865.

He returned to his wife, Mary Duff and his four children. In the rest of his life, he would father another four children, though one son would die three years after his birth.   Bingham Junkin himself died on May 15, 1911 at age 78.

Words to Live By:
It is a remarkable diary which can be found on the Web and available for you to read. [Click here.]. It speaks of a patriotic Covenanter who saw God’s hand in peace time and in war time. In return, Bingham Findlay Junkin blessed the God of his fathers, thus by his example giving all of our readers the exhortation to acknowledge God’s hand in everything. As Solomon put it in Proverbs 3:5, 6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (NASB)

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Today’s post is by our guest author, the Rev. Philip H. Pockras, who serves as the minister of the Belle Center, Ohio, RPCNA congregation, and he has served there since 1985.  He lives about three miles from Northwood, OH and is currently the Moderator of the Synod of the RPCNA.  In addition, Phil serves as the Secretary of the Board of Corporators of Geneva College.  While his wife, Judy, and his sons, Nathaniel and Isaac, are all alumni of Geneva, Phil is a 1976 alumnus of the wonderful Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio, where he graduated with a BA in History.

Forerunner of Geneva College

genevaHall_Original_buildingWay at the top of the Great Miami River, Covenanters came to settle in the 1820s.  They came mostly from eastern Ohio and upstate New York, unlike Covenanters farther down state.  Those who’d earlier come up from South Carolina and Tennessee founded RPCNA congregations in Cincinnati, Xenia, Cedarville, and the Beechwoods near Oxford.  The newcomers were in a clearing in the woods far to the north of these places.  That’s how the settlement came to be called Northwood, Ohio, in Logan County.

They were farther away from schools back east.  In 1836, the first minister, John Black Johnston, was involved in discussion around a stove in the store in nearby Richland.  Presiding over the discussion was his brother, J. S. Johnston, the storekeeper.  The topic was the need for a school, particularly for the RP young men in the area.  There were other places for schooling in Ohio, particularly the wonderful Miami University down in Oxford, but Old School Presbyterians and Associate Reformed Presbyterians dominated.  They were good men, and a couple of them had RP pasts, but they weren’t Covenanters now!

genevaHall_Second_College_buildingJ. B. Johnston took the ball, so to speak, and ran with it. He put the idea for a “grammar school” before the Lakes Presbytery of the RPCNA in late 1847. He got their approval, and on April 20th of that year the school started up in Northwood with the name “Geneva Hall”.  Rev. Johnston had a brick building constructed, and Geneva Hall moved into the two-story, five-roomed building.  Geneva printed advertising and distributed it to papers, including those of the RP Church.  Students came, in increasing number, from nearby and from farther away.  It helped that a railroad came to the village of Belle Center, only three miles away, at around the same time Geneva Hall was opened.

The story from there on was a fairly familiar one.  There were ups and downs of enrollment and frequent changes in the faculty corps, who were mostly young ministers or young men anticipating the ministry eventually.  The RP Theological Seminary was held in the building 1849-1851.  A new girls’ school, the Geneva Female Seminary, began down the street.  Geneva Hall expanded their building to a third story and added more rooms to accommodate growth.  Several reorganizations occurred and, finally, Rev. Johnston decided he could not carry the load further.  He offered the school to the Synod of the RPCNA in 1857, and Synod accepted it, but without funding it.  Rev. Johnston left the RPC in 1858 to join the new United Presbyterian Church of North America, and Geneva Hall closed by 1861.

genevaHall_Female_Seminary_buildingIn 1865, several locals reorganized the school, hiring J. B. Johnston’s youngest brother, the Rev. Nathan Robinson Johnston, to run it.  His right-hand man, the Rev. J. L. McCartney (father of Dr. Clarence Macartney), succeeded in having freedmen come from the South for an education.  By 1872, the Hall, newly renamed “Geneva College”, was finally thriving under new President Rev. H. H. George.  It grew in size and influence there in Northwood until it moved, in 1880, to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, where it still is and still seeks to be “Pro Christo et Patria”, “For Christ and Country”.

The building is gone.  The area long used it as a community center but demolished it in 1941.  A memorial stone with a bronze plaque marks where it stood on Ohio 638, between Bellefontaine and Belle Center.  One can read of Geneva’s early days in W. M. Glasgow’s The Geneva Book, available digitally, or in Dr. David Carson’s Pro Christo et Patria: A History of Geneva College.

Words to Live By:
Geneva Hall/Geneva College’s longtime motto is Pro Christo et Patria, “For Christ and Country”.  J. B. Johnston and others founded Geneva to be teaching all things in the light of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingship over all things (Ephesians 1:20-23). That motto still informs Geneva’s mission, even today, as expressed through the College’s document, Foundations of Christian Education. All subjects taught, and all aspects of life, must glorify Him. As such, it forms both a high calling and a solemn responsibility before the Lord.

As the Apostle Paul has written to the Romans, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36). We, too, must seek to bring all things under Christ’s feet, including our dear nation. True patriotism involves working for our nation, our people, our culture to be in submission to Prince Messiah. What a goal to work for! Though our own beginnings may be small and in a little obscure clearing in a big woods, Christ knows them, honors them, and glorifies Himself through them. He shall put all things under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:25, Ephesians 1.22), so our efforts are by no means in vain.

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The Second U.S. House Chaplain was a Presbyterian

As a matter of fact, the first three chaplains to the United States House of Representatives were all Presbyterian, with the Rev. Samuel Blair, Jr. being number two.

Samuel was born at Faggs Manor, Cochranville, Pennsylvania.  Immediately our readers should recognize the name of Samuel Blair as being related to the New Side pastor and evangelist of that famous church in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Now called Manor Presbyterians, its history goes back to 1730.  It is now a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. But Samuel Blair Sr. was one of the leaders of the First Great Awakening in the colonies.  This is his son.

Attending the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), Samuel Blair Jr. graduated with honor at age nineteen.  Staying in the town of Princeton, he tutored for several years.  licensed to preach by the Presbytery of New Castle in 1764, he was called to Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts in 1766.

In one of those “hard providences” of history, on his way up to Boston, he suffered a shipwreck, being actually cast into the Atlantic Ocean. His lost all of his clothes in that tragedy and all of his sermon manuscripts. This incident greatly depressed him and brought some major health problems to him.

He stayed on as one of the two pastors of Old South until 1769, when due to ill-health, he resigned and moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he planned to devote his remaining years to study. But God wasn’t through with him yet in active service. On December 10, 1790, he was appointed as the second Presbyterian chaplain to the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.  He would stay in that post for two years.

What a fitting close of ministry for a theologian, preacher of the Word, evangelist, and pastor.

Words to live by:  God always gives sufficient grace to those who need it in His work.  We may  have great weakness, but He is ever strong.  We may feel utterly inadequate, but He is all-sufficient.  Believer, trust in His strength always and then push out into His kingdom.  He will provide what you need for your effective ministry to the saints of God, and to say nothing for those who are in need of saving grace.

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