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Covenant or Contract?: A Study of the Theological Background of Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland

  • James B. Torrance

The Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God, 1645, acknowledged by Presbyterian Churches throughout the English-speaking world, emerged at a time of political controversy, when an attempt was made to achieve liturgical uniformity in England and Scotland, and therefore must be understood not only in terms of the theology which it embodies, but also in terms of the social and political revolution of which it was a kind of liturgical manifesto. The immediate context was that of a national struggle for freedom, a revolt from all forms of ‘catholic’ authoritarianism (Charles I, Archbishop Laud, divine right of kings, the papacy, Erastianism, etc.) and a rising suspicion of anything that savoured of imposed form and ritual.

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page 51 note 1 cf. McNally, F. W., The Westminster Directory, its origin and significance, 1958, unpublished thesis, New College Library, University of Edinburgh. McNally has shown that although the composers' aim was to work only from biblical principles and to subordinate everything to the authority of the Bible, without any regard for tradition, nevertheless there are other influences. (1) The whole general approach is that of the Genevan Scottish Book of Common Order. (2) In certain details there is the influence of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. (3) There is the unwritten tradition of English puritanism, with its revolt from form, and Scottish Presbyterianism as modified by English puritanism. McNally argues that the main influence of the Directory is seen after the middle of the nineteenth century, in those movements in Scotland which sought to recover and enrich the Reformed liturgical tradition, when scholars began to look again at the Directory and Book of Common Order as repositories of Reformed principles and usages of worship, i.e. in the numerous official and semi-official service books of the different Scottish churches of the last half century.

page 53 note 1 Miller, Perry, The New England Mind (vol. I, The Seventeenth Century; vol. II, Fron Colomy to Province), 1939, Macmillan, New York. Also, The Life of the Mind in America, 1966, Gollancz, London. Also (with Thomas H.Johnson), The Puritans. Cf. J. W. Gough, The Social Contract, ch. VII, ‘Puritanism and the Contract’, 1936, Oxford, The Clarendon Press.

page 53 note 2 cf. Henderson, G. D., ‘The Idea of the Covenant in Scotland’, The Evangelical Quarterly, Jan. 1955, p. 13.

page 55 note 1 Buber, Martin, Moses, 1946, East and West Library, Oxford and London. Cf. pp. 101 ff: ‘The original meaning of berith is not “contract” or “agreement”: that is, no conditions were originally stipulated therein, nor did any require to be stipulated—not a contract but an assumption into a life-relationship’ (p. 103).

page 59 note 1 Boston, Thomas, A General Account of My Life (1730) (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1908), p. 153. Cf. Brown, John of Whitburn, Gospel Truth Stated and Vindicated, Blackie, Fullarton, Glasgow, 1831, p. 139.

page 59 note 2 For a fuller account, cf. John Brown, op. cit.; MacEwen, A. R., The Erskines, Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier, Edinburgh and London, 1900.

page 65 note 1 Lindsay, T. M. in article, ‘The Covenant Theology’, The British and Foreign Evangelical Review, July 1879.

page 65 note 2 cf. Mitchell, , Catechisms of the Second Reformation, James Nisbet, London, 1886.

page 66 note 1 cf. the accusation of antinomianism levelled against the Marrow men, or such a later novel as James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

page 66 note 2 The Summe of Christian Religion, translated by Parry, D. Henrie (Oxford, 1601), p. 218, quoted by Murray, John, The Covenant of Grace, The Tyndale Press, London, 1954.

page 68 note 1 cf. the famous defence of slavery at the time of the American Civil War in the Address by the General Assembly—‘To all the churches of Jesus Christ throughout the earth, unanimously adopted at their sessions in Augusta, Georgia, December, 1861’, signed by Palmer, Thornwell and others. For an examination of this approach, see Thompson, E. T., The Spirituality of the Church, a distinctive doctrine of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, John Knox Press, Richmond, Virginia, 1961.

page 70 note 1 cf. Walker, , Scottish Theology and Theologians, Cunningham Lectures, 1871;Macpherson, John, Doctrine of the Church in Scottish Theology. Chalmers Lectures, 1903.

page 71 note 1 cf. Sprott, G. W., The Worship of the Church of Scotland During the Covenanting Period, 1638–1661 the Lee Lecture of 1893.

page 72 note 1 cf. Sprott, op. cit., p. 34.

page 73 note 1 Sprott, op. cit., pp. 48–49.

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Scottish Journal of Theology
  • ISSN: 0036-9306
  • EISSN: 1475-3065
  • URL: /core/journals/scottish-journal-of-theology
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