The Glasgow Assembly of 1638, pp.91-97.

[Scottish National Memorials Contents]

   ‘THE DECLINATOR AND PROTESTATION of the Archbishop and Bishops, of the
 Church of Scotland, and others their adherents within that Kingdome, against the pretended 
Generall Assembly holden at Glasgow Novemb. 21, 1638.’ This small-quarto pamphlet, of 18 
leaves including the title, was printed by warrant of the King, and published in London in 1639.

(1551) Lent by DAVID MURRAY, LL.D. 

   ‘THE PROTESTATION of the Generall Assemblie of the Church of Scotland and of the
 Noblemen, Barons, Gentlemen, Borrowes, Ministers and Commons, Subscribers of the Covenant, 
lately renewed, made in the high Kirk, and at the Mercate Crosse of Glasgow, the 28. and 29. of
 November 1638. Printed at Glasgow by George Anderson in the Yeare of Grace 1638.’ This is 
also a small quarto, and including the title only contains 8 leaves; but it is the earliest known
 specimen of Glasgow printing. (See Fig. 80.) 

(837) Lent by GEORGE GRAY. 

Both of these pamphlets (837 and 1551) are embodied in the Large Declaration, a work pro
fessedly written by the King, but undoubtedly from the pen of Dr. Balcanquall, Dean of Durham,
 which was published in 1639; there they are respectively to be found on pp. 248-264 and 294-802; 
and Peterkin has reprinted them in his Records of the Kirk of Scotland, 1838, pp. 99-106, 119-122. 
The title of the Declinator indicates its nature. Its subscribers must have looked forward to that 
reforming Assembly with feelings akin to despair. When Archbishop Spotswood heard that the 
National Covenant had been renewed in the Greyfriars’ Churchyard, he exclaimed – ‘Now all
 that we have been doing these thirty years past is thrown down at once’; and fearing violence he
 presently fled to London (Bishop Guthry’s Memoirs, 1748, p. 35). But at the end of the Declinator, 
he and the Archbishop of Glasgow, and the Bishops of Edinburgh, Galloway, Ross, and Brechin,
 declare, ‘as wee are readie with our bloud, so with our hand wee have subscribed these presents,’ 
at Holyrood, Newcastle, and Glasgow, on the 16th, 17th, and 20th of November 1638. This copy
 of the pamphlet bears many marginal notes in a contemporary hand. On the title-page – opposite
 the words, ‘the pretended Generall Assembly’ – there is written, ‘Though indicted by ye King.’ The Assembly met in the Cathedral, on the 21st of November, and Alexander Henderson was
 chosen Moderator by all the votes – ‘not ane contrare except his oune.’ A week later the Royal
 Commissioner, the Marquis of Hamilton, dissolved the Assembly in the King’s name under the
 highest pains; and next day, the 29th of November, at the market cross, by a formal proclamation,
 he forbade their further meeting under pain of treason, and commanded the members ‘to depart 
forth of this city of Glasgow, within the space of xxiiii houres.’ While he was leaving the Assembly a protest was being read, and it was again read after his proclamation at the market cross. This is the Protestation which was printed by George Anderson in pamphlet form. The Assembly continued to sit until the 20th of December, and during that time condemned ‘the six late pretended Assemblies,’ respectively held at Linlithgow in 1606 and 1608, at Glasgow in 1610, at Aberdeen in 1616, at St. Andrews in 1617, and at Perth in 1618, as ‘unfree, unlawfull, and null’; condemned the Service Book, Book of Canons, Book of Ordination, and the High Commission; deposed and excommunicated the two Archbishops and four Bishops who had signed the Declinator, and also the Bishops of Aberdeen and Dunblane; deposed the Bishops of Moray, Orkney, Lismore, the Isles, Dunkeld, and Caithness; declared Episcopacy to have been abjured by the Covenant in 1580, and to be removed out of this Kirk; declared the Five Articles of Perth to have been abjured, and to be removed; and passed many useful Acts besides, including one for translating their Moderator from Leuchars to Edinburgh. 

   THRISSELS BANNER. This rare broadside is a most ingenious and patriotic production, it has been beautifully engraved on copper, and both of the known copies are printed on satin. In describing the Dundee copy, the Rev. John C. Johnston, in his Treasury of the Scottish Covenant, Edinburgh, 1887, p. 643, speaks of it as ‘a national standard,’ which ‘was borne by the Covenanters when with a gallant army they marched into England, August 28, 1640, and took possession of Newcastle.’ But no one, who has seen either of the original copies, will agree with him in supposing that it was carried in battle. It is much too small and elaborate for that. The extreme length, measuring from the border lines which enclose the whole device, is 15 ¼ inches, and the breadth is 10 ¼ inches. As the reduced facsimile conveys a far better idea of it than words could possibly do, it would be quite superfluous to describe its general appearance. On the board of the clasped Bible is the text:- REMOVE THE WICKED FROM THE KING IN RIGHTEOUSNES THEN SHAL HEE REIGN. PROVERBIORUM XXV. V. The verse was probably thrown into this pithy form by the designer of the banner. As reign would be pronounced ring, it is evidently intended to rhyme with king. On the edge of the Bible are the words:- VERBUM DOMINI MANET IN ÆTERNUM. The handle of the sword bears the motto:- CREDE MIHI VERUM LIBERTAS OPTIMA RERUM NUNQUAM SERVILI SUB NEXU VIVETE FILIL. This was a favourite proverb with Wallace. He had it constantly on his lips, and acknowledged that it had had a decided influence upon his life. Walter Bower and John Major give it in the slightly different form: 

Dico tibi verum libertas optima rerum

Nunquam seruili sub nexu viuito fili.’1

It has also been given as – 

Ut sapias verum, libertas optima rerum.’2

On the finger-guard of the sword are the words:- IN DEFENCE; and on the blade the admonition:- O KING OF ROYAL RACE REMEMBER MY TRUE WORD THOU VENTUR’S CROWN AND PEACE BY DRAWING OF THY SWORD. The ribbon, which passes through the five loops of the banner, and so attaches it to the sword, bears three mottoes, VIZ. DOMINUS FIRMET VINCULUM PACIS: IF THIS KNOT LOUSED BEE ITS THY LOSS AND THY HEIRS WHITHER THE VICTORI BEE ON THY SYDE OR THEIRS: HONY SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE. The scroll on the left-hand side of the sword has – PRO LEGE REGE GREGE. On the thistle there is the motto – LIBERUM-HILAREM; and on its leaves – SI DEUS NOBISCUM QUIS CONTRA NOS. The inscription on the banner is perfectly legible in the facsimile, it will be noticed that, as in the case of all the mottoes save one, there is a full stop after each word. The sentiment of the inscription is more vigorous than poetical, the author’s muse having been sadly hampered by the design of the double cross, and even the meaning of some of the lines is somewhat obscured. The letters within the St. Andrew’s Cross read thus:- 



and those within the Cross of St. George:- 



   Even although ‘1640’ had not been on the banner its approximate date could easily have been assigned. Taken together, the references to the renewing of ‘our oath and covenant,’ to the sweeping of our church, and to the ‘right sentence’ passed on the bishops, show that it could not be placed before the meeting of the Glasgow Assembly; while the statement that the ‘hyrlings,’ ‘lyke vipers-brood,’ ‘stil troubling our state abyde,’ seems to imply that the bishops had not yet been cast out of Parliament, and that therefore it must have preceded the 2d of June 1640. The motto, too, on the pennant, shows that the good cause was prevailing; and that already quoted, as the first on the ribbon round the sword, probably refers to the Treaty of Berwick, signed on the 18th of June 1639. That the designer of the banner had a kindly regard for the King is evident enough from the motto on the scroll, on the left-hand side of the sword; from the text on the Bible throwing all the blame on his counsellors; from the way in which he is mentioned as ‘Thrissels Jewel,’ and as ‘worthy famous prince’; and from the national pride in the long line of his kingly descent:- SCOTS TWELF TYMES NYNT MAN-KING HOLD FAST KING FERGUS CROWN. In the label under the ‘Banner’ are the lines:- 

Tho al the Pow’rs and Strength Of Satan Hel and Death 
masked with Worldly Toyes Thyne (O Lord) here Oppressed
Cuñyng Curs’d Fooles at length Contentles through Fyr’s-Breath 
hame jn Thy Upper-Joyets Thee with Thyne shal see Blessed

Immediately below these lines there is the date 1640. 

   As in the lines on the banner itself, so in these the author’s double purpose has clouded the sense. Here one object was to preserve his own name, and it will be observed that all the words are in italics except – ‘Thomas Cunynghame Of Thyne Content Thee.’ No such motto appears to have been adopted by any of the branches of the Cunninghame family. It has been suggested that ‘Thyne’ may have been the name of his residence or estate; but, although a laborious search has been made, no place of that name has been found in Scotland. There is, however, a small town of that name in Belgium, about thirteen miles south from Namur, and therefore the information vouchsafed as to the authorship may be equivalent to – I am Thomas Cunnynghame of Thyne; be content with that, for you will learn no more. There was then no minister of the Church of Scotland bearing that name, nor since, unless perhaps within very recent years. But there was a Thomas Cunnynghame a merchant or factor at Campvere, if not at that time certainly very soon after it. He was appointed Conservator of the Scottish privileges in the Low Countries, and, during the troublous times of the Covenant, did much to help his countrymen at home in their struggle against the King. There are many references to him in the Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland between 1643 and 1651. From one of these it appears that he and his partner, James Weir, had furnished ‘to this kingdome, in its greatest straits,’ ‘ammunition and arms’ amounting in value to £99,355, 9s. 4d. Scots, ‘besides great quantities of powlder and match sent be them to Newcastle.’ In all likelihood Thomas Cunnynghame of the Thrissels Banner and Thomas Cunnynghame of Campvere were one, and he may have been located in the Belgian town of Thyne in 1640. The copy of the broadside, from which the accompanying facsimile has been prepared, is now the property of the Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow. (See Plate XII.) 


Plate XII. – Thrissels Banner.

   LETTER, from General Alexander Leslie, and other leading Covenanters, to a minister of the French King concerning Colonel Erskine, probably a brother of Sir Charles Erskine. The letter, which is written in French, and of which there is a translation in the Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, p. 523, is dated from the Camp at Dunse on the 20th of August 1640. The writers explain that ‘the affairs of this kingdom being for the present in such a state that, to prevent an inevitable ruin,’ they have been constrained to assemble a good army, and so have not been able ‘this last year to permit Colonel Erskine to transport his regiment,’ and the same necessity constrains them at this hour to employ him for defence of the country. This, however, ‘will not cause any prejudice to the service of His Majesty, but on the contrary will advance it greatly, for peace being made (which is the object of our desires and the wish of our soul), we will show by the assistance which we shall give to the said Colonel in his levies, and by the goodness of the troops which he will bring for the service of His Majesty, that we good Scots shall never forget the old alliances and interest which we have in common with France.’ Signed by A. Leslie, Rothes, J. E. Mar, Argyll, Balcarres, Balmerino, and Seafort. 


   Printed Copy of the SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT of 1643. The object of this bond was much wider than that of the National Covenant. It was designed not only to preserve the reformed religion in Scotland, but ‘the reformation of religion in the kingdomes of England and Ireland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the Word of God and the example of the best reformed Churches;’ and ‘to bring the Churches of God in the three kingdomes to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, confession of faith, form of church-government, directory for worship and catechizing.’ The swearers were also bound to endeavour to extirpate Popery, Prelacy, superstition, heresy, schism, and profanity; ‘to preserve the rights and privileges of the Parliaments, and the liberties of the kingdomes; and to preserve and defend the Kings Majesties person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion, and liberties of the kingdomes.’ It was while the General Assembly and Convention of Estates were sitting in Edinburgh in August 1643 that the Commissioners from the English Parliament arrived to crave help. In a paper, which they delivered to the Convention on the 12th,and to the Assembly on the 15th of August, they expatiate on the zeal of the English Parliament in the reformation of religion, and their reciprocal desire that ‘the two kingdomes might be brought into a near conjunction in one form of church-government, one directorie of worship, one catechisme, &c., and the foundation laid of the utter extirpation of Popery and Prelacie out of both kingdomes.’ They add, ‘The most ready and effectuall means whereunto is now conceived to be, that both nations enter into a strict union and league, according to the desires of the two houses of Parliament.’ The opinion of Alexander Henderson – that the league should be religious as well as civil – so commended itself that the Solemn League and Covenant, drafted by him, was approved with great unanimity by both the Convention and Assembly on the 17th of August. At the same time it was resolved that, after being approved by the English Parliament and the Westminster Assembly, it ‘be printed at the return thereof’ After some very slight changes, it was accepted by that Assembly and both Houses of that Parliament; and was solemnly sworn by the House of Commons and the Westminster Divines on the 25th of September.3 Accordingly, on the 11th of October, the Commission of the General Assembly ordained that it be ‘forthwith printed, and that the printed copies, bound with some clean sheets of paper, be sent unto the ministry; and that every minister, upon the first Lord’s day after the same shall come to his hands, read and Explain it, and by exhortation prepare the people to the swearing and subscribing thereof solemnly the Lord’s day next immediately following.’ It was further ordained that Presbyteries should ‘proceed with the censures of the kirk against all such as shall refuse, or shift to swear and subscribe.’ And next day the Commissioners of the Convention of Estates ordained that it be sworn ‘by all his Majesty’s subjects of this kingdom,’ under certain civil pains. This copy, which is in vellum covers, was signed by the Tolbooth Congregation of Edinburgh, which then met in the west part of St. Giles, and, like all the other printed ones, it is a small quarto. The relative Acts of the General Assembly and Convention of Estates of 17th August, of the Commission of Assembly of 11th October, and of the Commissioners of the Convention of Estates of 12th October, are printed with it. The title runs thus:- ‘A Solemne League and Covenant, for Reformation, and Defence of Religion, the Honour and happinesse of the King, and the Peace and safety of the three kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland.’ It was printed in Edinburgh by Evan Tyler. On the last printed page there is written:- ‘Edinb: in Eccl. occidentalj 23 Octob. 1643.’ Then follow the names of Mr. Robert Douglas, minister, and thirteen others, including Hepburne of Humby, A. Ker, Advocate, four elders and four deacons. The next thirteen pages are filled with names, five groups of which are not autographs, but were adhibited, as a note explains, ‘with our handis at the pen led be the notar underwrittin at our command becaus we can not wryte our selffis.’ The last five who sign by a notary were ‘’pairt of the parochynneris of the West Parochyn of Edr… being af the toun of Edr. about our lautfull effaires and bussines the tyme of the subscryving of the prefixed prented covenant by the rest of our nychtbouris.’ Altogether there are about seven hundred and fifty names, and of these barely a third are by the notaries. This copy was bought in the Cowgate about seventy years ago by Mr. James Watt, millwright, Biggar, who carefully treasured it until he gave it over to his son, who in turn handed it over to the Rev. Mr. Somerville, and it is now in the Advocates’ Library. 


   Printed Copy of the SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT, renewed in 1648. (See Plate XIII.) The Commission of the General Assembly, on the 6th of October 1648, ‘considering that a great part of this land have invoked themselves in many and gross breaches of the Solemn League and Covenant; and that the hands of many are grown slack in following and pursuing the duties contained therein; and that many, who not being come to sufficient age when it was first sworn and subscribed, have not hitherto been received into the same,’ ordained that it should be renewed, ‘throughout all the congregations of this kingdom,’ in the following December. In connection with this renewal there was drawn up: ‘A solemn acknowledgment of public sins, and breaches of the Covenant; and a solemn engagement to all the duties contained therein, namely, those which do in a more special way relate unto the dangers of these times.’ On the 14th of October, the Committee of Estates unanimously and heartily approved ‘the seasonable and pious resolution of the Commission of the General Assembly,’ and ordained that their directions ‘be carefully followed.’ This copy is also a small quarto, and was printed by Evan Tyler in 1648. It has the same title as No. 373, with this addition:- ‘Appointed to be renewed by the Acts of the General Assembly, and the Committee of Estates of the sixth and fourteenth dayes of this moneth of October.’ None of the Acts are printed with it, and only five pages are filled with names, of which one hundred and seventy are autographs, and about seventy are written by the notary. The first of the three groups of names by the notary is dated 17th December 1648. There is no direct statement saying where it was subscribed, but as the first signature is that of Mr. P. Gillespie it may safely be assigned to the Saltmarket and Bridgegate, or south district of Glasgow, of which he was then minister. At that time there was no other Patrick Gillespie among the ministers of Scotland. The next signature is that of ‘Ninian Andirsone, balive’; and Ninian Anderson is mentioned as one of the bailies of Glasgow in 1646 (Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vol. vi. part i. p. 639). In the unhappy dispute that rent the Scottish Church soon afterwards, Gillespie was a keen Protestor. In 1653 he was appointed Principal of Glasgow University, which, according to Baillie, his successor in that office, he involved in debt by magnificent buildings. He is said to have been the first minister in Scotland who openly prayed for a blessing on the Lord Protector. After the Restoration he was imprisoned, but escaped martyrdom through submission and influence, and died at Leith in 1675. The cabinet in which this copy of the Solemn League was found belonged to Gillespie, and passed into the possession of Andrew Ross, who, in 1706, was admitted Professor of Humanity in Glasgow University; and Miss Ross, the last of the family, who died in 1772, left it to John Brown of Waterhaught. Only one copy of the Solemn League on parchment is known to have survived to the present time (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, xii. 63, 64); but in the early part of last century the original parchment copies of the National Covenant and of the Solemn League, signed by Charles the Second and the nobility at Scone on the 1st of January
 1651, were in the possession of James Anderson, the author of the Diplomata Scotiæ (Ibid. iv. 240, 
250). Charles had previously sworn both Covenants at the mouth of the Spey, on the 23d of June 
1650; and the copy of the Solemn League then signed by him was presented to Parliament on
 the 1st of the following July, and was ordained to be kept by the clerk of register4 (Acts of the
 Parl. of Scotland, vol. vi. part ii. p. 596). 

(375) Lent by MISS BROWN. 

Plate XIII. – The Solemn League and Covenant as Renewed in 1648.

1  Scotichronicon, 1759, ii. 223; Historia Majoris Britanniæ, 1521, fol. lxxiii. 

2  Liber Pluscardensis, 1877, p. 225. 

3  The House of Lords did not swear it until the 15th of October. In February 1643-4 the English Parliament issued an Ordinance enjoining the taking of the Solemn League and Covenant throughout England and Wales, with Instructions and an Exhortation. With these were printed, in pamphlet form, a copy of the Covenant itself and the names of the 228 members of the House of Commons who had subscribed. Cromwell’s name occurs among the others. In the Instructions it is said that the signatures are to be ‘in a parchment roll, or a book, whereinto the Covenant is to be inserted, purposely provided for that end, and kept as a record in the parish.’ There must have been many parchment copies in England, for Principal Baillie, in writing to a minister in London in 1655, refers to the Covenant which was ‘wont to hing on the walls of your churches.’

4  On the 26th of June 1889, a copy of the National Covenant realised £135, at the sale of the Burton-Constable 
MSS. The purchaser forbade the auctioneers to divulge his name. It was thus described in the catalogue, lot 464:- 
’Confession of Faith of the Kirk of Scotland, on parchment, with the approbation “by my solemne Oath, for myself 
and successors of the National Covenant and the solemne League and Covenant,” signed by Charles I. himself.’ There 
can be no doubt that the compiler of the catalogue is in error in stating that it bears the signature of Charles the First. 
It must be one of those signed by his more pliable and unscrupulous son at Spey or Scone. 

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