Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thanksgiving to God and a Lament for William of Orange

Today is the "“Glorious Twelfth"”, as it is called in Northern Ireland, which commemorates the decisive defeat of James II by William III of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne. This day is a national holiday in Northern Ireland and the streets of Belfast and other towns in the province will resound to the sound of the fifes and drums of the bands as they parade alongside the various lodges of the Orange Order in their orange sashes.

The Orange Order exists to "uphold the Protestant faith and liberty", but it is best known for its marches to commemorate the victories of William III over James II. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland opposes membership of this organisation because of some unbiblical aspects of the Order, as stated in our Testimony and as expressed by our Professor of OT Studies, Norris Wilson, elsewhere.

This article is not about the Orange Order, but about William III. How do I, as an Ulster Presbyterian, respond to this day and to "King Billy"?

Thanksgiving to God for Deliverance from the Bloody Stuarts

On the one hand, I think it right that we have a day of thanksgiving for a remarkable day in the history of our nation. Kings James II was a bloody persecutor of God'’s people in the British Isles along with the other Stuarts, esp. the wicked Charles II. God heard the cries of his faithful people and delivered them from their enemies through William. Truly he was a Moses of sorts to the non-Conformists, and indeed to Protestants in general because James II wanted to bring the British Isles under the rule of the Pope once more.

John Howie in his famous book, 'The Scots Worthies', estimates that during the 28 years of persecution in Scotland "above 18,000 people, according to calculation, suffered death, or the utmost hardships and extremities." He breaks down this number as follows:
  • 1,700 were banished to America and 750 to the northern islands of Scotland.
  • 3,600 were imprisoned, outlawed, or sentenced to be executed when apprehended.
  • 680 were killed in skirmishes or died of their wounds.
  • 7,000 voluntarily left Scotland for conscience'’s sake.
  • 362 were executed after process of law, and 498 slaughtered without process of law.
In addition to the above, "the number of those who perished through cold, hunger, and other distresses, contracted in their flight to the mountains, and who sometimes even when on the point of death were murdered by the bloody soldiers, cannot well be calculated, but will certainly make up the number above specified."

We give thanks to God for the freedom which we enjoy as Protestants in the United Kingdom, and, through it, in many countries in the world, especially our former colonies. It would be better if the nation was called to give thanks to God in the churches, rather than to parade in the streets, have fights with the Papists and get drunk watching the marches.

Lamenting the Compromises

The flip-side of "the Glorious Revolution" and King Billy is the compromises and defects that came in with his rule that would echo through the centuries. In Scotland, the strict Covenanters had suffered the worst of the persecution and had to worship out in the open at conventicles, while their preachers roamed the hills in all weathers as their cruel hunters sought their very lives. These people are those who are the direct ancestors of the present Reformed Presbyterian Churches (a.k.a. the Covenanters). Under the Revolution Settlement of William, the Church in Scotland was once more established in law as a Presbyterian Church, but these people did not join it. Why was this? The following reasons are often stated:
  1. The Church was not merely established, but was Erastian in character, and compromised the sole headship of Christ over His Church.
  2. The vast majority of the preachers had compromised the Kingship of Christ over His Church in accepting the indulgences of the Stuart Kings, and had not confessed their sin, nor repented of it.
  3. Some of the ruling elders in the Church had been foremost in the persecution of the brethren and had blood on their hands. Many, if not all, were also involved in many lesser crimes and compromises. There was no attempt to discipline these men.
  4. The state of Reformation of the Church was degraded and had been based on the Acts of Parliament of 1592, rather than those of the Second Reformation of 1648.
  5. The solemn Covenants that the nation and Church had made with God had been trampled under foot. These Covenants had a descending obligation because of the nature of the parties: both the nation as represented by the civil government and the Church as represented by the elders were moral, or legal, bodies whose obligations continued as long as the bodies did. These entities still existed at the time of the Revolution Settlement (and they do today) and so were (and are) still under obligation. For the same reasons treaties between countries continue to have a binding obligation even though those who made it are dead. Nations might be held to account for their oaths with other nations, but not those with God!
These compromises were to lead to the further fragmentation of the Presbyterian Churches of the English-speaking world. The nature of the men who comprised the Revolution Church and the state of it was such that other Covenanters called "“Seceders"” were forced by conscience to secede at various periods throughout the 18th Century.

The Erastian nature of the Established Church was eventually to lead to Queen Victoria and her government exerting unscriptural power over the Church of Scotland and causing the "“Great Disruption"” of 1843, when a large proportion of that Church seceded to form the Free Church.

There were other ways in which the "“Glorious Revolution"” was not so glorious. The British throne was now occupied by a foreigner, which was inglorious for any nation. (The Covenanters also objected to this.) This practice was to continue with the Georges of Hanover.

The Establishment of Episcopalianism in England and Ireland under William was to lead to the continued persecution of Non-Conformists under the Penal Acts in these nations and force many to flee to America in the 18th Century. This persecution and the abuse of the British aristocrats and merchants were to follow them into America and lead to the War for Independence from the unfaithful King George III and the usurpations of the British Parliament in America. (The so-called rebellion was often referred to as an Irish Presbyterian one, but this only tells half the story, and was partially a denial by the Tories of the involvement of the Anglo-Americans. Nevertheless, the majority of those involved were Scots-Irish Presbyterians, and many of the Anglican leaders of the War for Independence were to become Presbyterians.) It was a sad day to see these sister nations divided, but the root of it was the Revolution Settlement.

The same compromises that were made in the Church of Scotland were also made in the Church of England, where the continuance of Episcopalianism, Erastianism, unbelieving leadership and lack of discipline were to be disastrous for the English and Anglican Churches, and the English nation up until the present day. If God was not gracious to raise up an Evangelical revival in the Established Church (and amongst the Methodist seceders) in the 18th and 19th Centuries, what an even worse state England would be in today!

I give thanks to God for the deliverance of our nation from bloody James, but I lament the compromises of William III and others at the Revolution Settlement.


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11 Comments:

Blogger Daniel Hill said...

What's the evidence that Washington became Presbyterian? I quote from Wikipedia:
there is no record of his ever becoming a communicant in any Christian church and he would regularly leave services before communion—with the other non-communicants.
He did not ask for any clergy on his deathbed, though one was available. His funeral services were those of the Freemasons.

Friday, July 14, 2006 12:18:00 pm  
Blogger Michael A G Haykin said...

While many entries in Wikipedia are solid, this one on George Washington is not. There is good evidence that he was a faithful Episcopalian--though not Presbyterian. Sources upon request.

Saturday, July 15, 2006 7:02:00 pm  
Blogger Custard said...

Just wondering - do you know any members of the Roman Catholic church whom you would consider to be genuinely saved?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006 8:29:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...yes...

Monday, July 24, 2006 12:07:00 am  
Blogger Custard said...

also yes

Monday, July 24, 2006 9:27:00 am  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Washington's Denominational Affiliation
Daniel, thanks for pointing out the error regarding Washington. I wrote this piece very quickly before leaving for holiday and an old memory slipped into the article. I originally read that Washington had become Presbyterian, but subsequent reading had refuted this; nevertheless, the newer information slipped my mind at the time of writing the article.

I have removed the original statement from the article, and have added a quick blog on Washington's Episcopalian affiliation.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 2:38:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Custard, yes I can think of some who were in the Roman pseudo-church and were true believers. It is a not an uncommon situation in Ireland, esp. as many come to faith through the "Catholic" charismatic movement. I think especially of a lovely believer and a member of one of our churches who kept partaking of the Mass (as the Lord's Supper) for a long time after becoming a Christian, because of the persecution she was getting from her husband over becoming a believer. In time she was convicted by some of the passages referred to in my post on separation from unbelievers and false teachers, and had the courage to disobey her husband.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 4:03:00 pm  
Blogger Daniel Ritchie said...

Good post; please feel free to visit my blog http://reformedcovenanter.blogspot.com/

Saturday, August 12, 2006 9:11:00 pm  
Blogger Kevin said...

I think history is a bit more nuanced. James II was actually looking to create an alliance between the dissenters and the Catholics by allowing freedom of worship for these parties. People like John Bunyan were freed under the Royal Declaration of Indulgence by Charles II with the support of James. Instead the Anglicans succeeded in having Parliment pass the Test Acts which required anyone in public service to be an Anglican. William's accenssion to the throne did nothing to curtail the strength of the Anglican church and the exodus of reformed Christians to the colonies in the New World.

Sunday, August 27, 2006 2:39:00 pm  
Blogger Timothy Davis said...

Thanks for adding the additional info about the indulgences, Kevin. I'm aware of this, but as I didn't mention them it's good to add them.

The apparent main motivation for the indulgences was to allow the Papists freedom of worship under the smoke-screen of general 'toleration'. His 'toleration' towards those who would accept his indulgence was in sharp contrast to his slaughter of those who held out for the complete freedom of the Church to manage her own affairs.

(Of course, the main reasons for the curtailment of Romanist worship by most of the previous monarches was the political danger of that group and a jealousy to uphold the supremacy of the monarch over the Church, rather than a particular concern to punish heresy).

Another apparent motivation for the indulgence was that he realised his pro-Papist policies were beginning to get him into trouble and he wanted to ingratitiate himself with the Non-Conformists and make people less suspicious of what he was up to in replacing Protestant officials with Papist ones.

The affects of the Anglican establishment's domination in England, Wales and Ireland are already covered in this article. Although these policies were less severe than the previous treatment of Presbyterians in Scotland and N. Ireland (which was also worse than what English Puritans experienced).

Sunday, August 27, 2006 5:15:00 pm  
Blogger Kevin said...

Hi Tim,

I like your post even a year later. I agree that the Declaration of Tolerance was probably a smokescreen. I think if you look back to the restatement of Charles II. He had agreed beforehand to put in place Presbyterian worship for a determined period of time in exchange for support from the Reformed church. Once Charles II assumed the throne, the deal was never fulfilled. In the case of James II, he probably would have been forced to stick with the Declaration for his entire reign due to the very small number of Roman Catholics and the strength of the Anglican Church.

Monday, July 16, 2007 2:22:00 pm  

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