THE (Scottish General) ASSEMBLY'S LETTER TO THE KIRKS IN THE NETHERLANDS (Edinburgh, June 4, 1644)

Translated from Latin to English by Dr. Stephen Westcott (England) and received in Edmonton (Canada) via email on June 4, 1997 (exactly 353 years after its original date). The Latin text of this letter can be found on pages 239-243 of The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, From the Year 1638, to the Year 1649 Inclusive (99 cent as a digital download at [click the link] or as a SWRB rare bound photocopy, US$39.00 Hardcover photocopy, US$19.99 cerlox bound photocopy. Also available on the Puritan Hard Drive with 12,500+ classic and contemporary Reformation and Puritan books, the world's most powerful Reformation research software and a massive embedded database, which already contains over 15,000,000 records).

Most worshipful brothers in the Lord,

The letter that was sent to us last year in the name of the Churches of Zealand, and your kindness shown to us by so many great services, assures us that we must interpret them as strong witnesses of the goodwill with the whole of your Belgic Churches towards us. This opinion has been abundantly confirmed in those things which that most distinguished knight Sir Archibald Johnston of Warriston, assessor in the supreme Assembly, not long since informed us of from London. Reporting the order of affairs in both kingdom and Church he related, in that same National Synod, of your extraordinary zeal towards us, and especially with what great faith, with what solicitous diligence you have promoted, and even now continue busy to promote, our cause (or rather that of the Lord Jesus Christ) as it is now being persued in London. In which business those delegates, whose names are not all unknown to you, have happily undertaken the scheme for conciliating a union of the Britannic Churches. May they, by your help and diligence, soon achieve a result, of which we have already received by no means obscure indications. There are these so illustrious testimonies of your kindness, open to such an extent in the eyes of all good people that no forgetfulness could ever destroy the memory of them. No one will ever repent of labors undertaken now, and labor that may be undertaken hereafter, to happily compose and decide the controversies arising in the London Synod. From the fruit which we have already seen (through the divine blessing) it is reasonable to hope for all the best for the future.

To add to this so honourable remembrance of your kindnesses made by Warriston we have also received a letter from parts of Northern Ireland signed with many autographs, which makes mention of the remarkable grace poured out on that church by divine influence, from the time that they were admitted into the covenant of these kingdoms. Of this divine blessing we have recently had most ample testimony in the outstanding generosity the saints in Belgium have showed to them though unknown and foreign, most loving, and as pricked by a very tender sense of their evils. For they relieved them in the nick of time, being a very few survivors of the sword and about to soon die of hunger, being surrounded by all kinds of difficulties. Not only did they strengthened their inner courage by consoling discourses for their consolation, urging that proceeding humbly they should wait for God as their liberator (who is not accustomed to hid His face from the house of Jacob except for a little while) but they also amply warmed them into life with generous aid in addition, with corn and other things fit for their easement and necessary relief, in so great straits. When they strove so much as suppliants to obtain munificence from God, and you were His agents, so He will pay it back into your bosoms sevenfold. So we humbly and repeatedly crave, in recognition of such kindness , that you give our thanks to all the Belgic Churches. This duty do, for if indeed we failed in our duty we should sin against ourselves, and most grievously against them.

We acknowledge, therefore, the most illustrious and most powerful and outstanding kindness of Holland, Zealand and of the other Belgic classes. With whom not only not turning the blind eye but supplying provisions (which in itself cannot be considered an ordinary kindness), but also that your authors wrote with method and reason, so that, leading by example, collections made throughout your Churches were soon sent to the relief our Irish brothers. We acknowledge such ready good will and generosity of the devout in the same Belgic Churches. We acknowledge that such great kindness has been conferred, not less than our brothers themselves do, in their own persons speaking on their behalf. And we wish that you, Reverend brothers, as we will always be prompt to all the actions of a grateful mind, that you will use your diligence to pass on thanks to your most prayerful Classes in our name, as is most reasonable to be done. And that you might demonstrate, moreover, to the people committed to your Christian care, first to all publicly, next to individuals privately, as the occasion may turn out, how respectfully we feel almost at one with them, and how much worth we place on their so outstanding goodwill and charity with which they revived our flesh and blood, in their consolation of the Irish Churches. What, moreover, have you been in the past, dearest brothers! With what devout zeal and toil, with what constant diligence have you carried forward the seed of charity until the sprouting corn waxed at length into the ripe harvest! We both willingly acknowledge this, whilst the event speaks for itself, as the excellent harvest fruit bears witness.

Most especially, however, (which is the chief point) we, together with the Irish Churches, praise and celebrate the Author and Bestower of such great grace through you, praying that He may pour out His Spirit on you all in great abundance, and on all the Churches committed to you by the Lord, in your most illustrious Classes in Belgium and in your Republic.

Making defence against a most potent enemy, and being endangered in the midst of so many difficulties, you are protected by the light of the uncontaminated truth of the Gospel in your Churches against the gates of hell. Then, being defended the more widely by the immense power of God watching over you has caused His manifold wisdom and understanding kindness to be celebrated at this time throughout the entire world. So may the same fount of all goodness continue to keep you in Him and in all good things, so that your Federal Republic may daily be more eminent, to the murmuring of the enemies of our religion and liberty. May the exercise of your wisdom and best arts as well as your arms and triumphs over the most eminent nations, make the Church shine forth by the purity of a holy people, to the evident splendor of heavenly truth. And may your most prudent and wholesome designs turn out all the more successful for you; plans by which you may be assured you are creating an advantage for the common happiness. Nor have you consulted only your own interests, but you are concerned also about neighbouring Churches as to how, by your diligence and providential use of your resources, you may support and strengthen them all. As if looking out from a watch-tower you give warning to them all, averting dangers and forearming against all the downfalls treacherously plotted by the enemy. You warned us of your letter sent from Zealand last year, how impostors, impudently counterfeiting the name of Jesus, and other henchmen of the Antichrist, have the more securely brought many onto their side, in a nation fascinated by Papal errors, with a design no less than to cut out, root and branch all the pure Churches of Christ. As they have bound themselves together in this by a close conspiracy to perpetrate such infamous plans, so all the Reformed Churches, as if at a given alarm signal, should join their minds and strength, united, as it were in the middle, so that they may turn the ruin intended for them back upon the heads of their enemies. Unless we can do so we will lack, in the eyes of posterity, any excuse for our shameless cowardice. We willingly acknowledged that your plan and advice was not less provident than trustworthy, not less happy than wholesome, and we again approve of it, as we see its outworking.

Firstly, however, in order to achieve this, it seems necessary that without delay we all fly to our most merciful God, who has, after so long suffering the so-little reformed character of the Reformed Churches began many years ago first to brandish the rod, and then at length the unsheathed sword, and now for a long time has loosed the sword, red and dripping, nay, streaming and foaming with blood, and that the blood of His own people throughout many regions. Finally it is now stretched over we who are left, warning us to come to our right minds quickly and unite our ranks more closely against the common enemy, to purge and further cleanse His house, to more highly esteem the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, to see that the institutions of God concerning His worship, and concerning sanctification of His Sabbath be observed more religiously (from which things we have, alas, averted our eyes all too much), and concerning morals being rectified by the rule of true piety more thoroughly than has hitherto been done, and establishing ourselves as the people of God under pious governors, as they that lived under Nehemiah, Joshua and other such godly magistrates.

Being bound to God by a solemn religious Covenant, struck as the very firmest of bonds, we seek that God might avert His wrath (now steaming and threatening over our heads); wrath which our very many and very great sins have provoked and inflamed against us.

Not sooner had we offered ourselves, than we began to taste those fruits which a covenanted people receive from their God, fruits well worthy of the vows which have been so solemnly and openly announced, so that it may be pleasing to you to place our example before you.

What we have experienced, however, concerning the grace of God towards us, what gratitude to God His glory requires of us we dare not conceal, whatever our own merits may be in the sight of God and of men. Certainly from that day on which we first thought of entering upon a religious Covenant with God and among ourselves, we began to be called back from the gates of hell, and all our affairs, thus necessarily thrown onto our God, began to work out for the better, and so far with the most happy success. But if it seems good to your providence to think of entering into further religious society by a Covenant of this kind (which can be done to the advantage of purging and stabilising your affairs, as has been the case in our Britain from the Covenant recently entered upon), and from the interest of those whose business it is to deliberate and to deal with the other Reformed churches, (by the influence of that grace by which you are so strong among them all), so that many may enter upon the same plan of action with you, then there is no doubt that, through the grace of our most kind Lord and God Jesus Christ towards his Churches, it will be the case that not only will you maintain a most sure defence against the impending evils mentioned in your letter sent from Zealand last year, but that the Reformed Churches may unite amongst themselves by a new bond and closer association, invigorating and strengthening each other against all the attempts and assaults of the enemy. Thus might even the dislodged stones of the house of God throughout Germany be lifted from the debris and ruins and be replaced into the building, and the glorious Temple of our Lord be restored in that same place whilst the professors of a pure religion in those Churches may be purified by the renewing of a right Spirit towards Him who had seen fit to strike them and, being returned by a pact which never can grow old, be united and joined with us in the Lord, and at length relieved of the evils under which they have been groaning for so many years. In that day, so longed for and desired, (if it ever dawns, through the grace of God), a course of action may be worked out concerning the inter communion of the councils and Synods of the Reformed churches (by means of delegates and letters). By this means heresies may be crushed, schisms avoided and a peace provided for with God and amongst ourselves, whilst the glorious work of the Lord may be provided for in propagating the Gospel throughout the world and so the kingdom of Antichrist be overthrown.

This we commend as being worthy to be desired and hoped for in your devout and prudent meditations, like a good seed in a most fertile soil.

Edinburgh, 4th June, 1644.

Pledged to your worthinesses, most fraternally, by the Pastors and Elders of the National Synod of Scotland, in the name and by the mandate of them all.

To the Churches of God which are in the United Provinces of Holland, Zealand, and the Federated Provinces of Belgium.

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The Acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, From the Year 1638 to the Year 1649 Inclusive (1682)
Exceedingly rare, these are the acts from what many consider the greatest general assembly gatherings since the days of the apostles. The work accomplished and ratified at these meetings has been called "the most perfect model" of Presbyterial Church Government "as yet attained." Sitting during the momentous days of the Covenants (National and Solemn League) and the Westminster Assembly, this general assembly included the likes of Samuel Rutherford and George Gillespie. Judicially binding on covenanted Presbyterians (WCF 31:3), these Acts demonstrate how these godly leaders officially dealt with individual, family, ecclesiastical and civil Reformation (including national and international matters). Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that these rulings had major national and international ramifications in their day and that they still guide faithful Presbyterians at the close of the twentieth century (as terms of ministerial and Christian communion in the Reformed Presbyterian church). Moreover, they contain "noble examples to be followed in testifying against all corruptions embodied in the constitutions of either churches or states" (Reformed Presbytery, Act, Declaration and Testimony for the Whole of Our Covenanted Reformation, p. 216). Christ's Kingship has never since been so boldly and clearly proclaimed to the nations by a duly constituted general assembly -- neither has His rule and reign been upheld and actually embodied into the laws of a nation (civil and ecclesiastical) as it was during these days in Scotland. Much of this can be attributed to the work (humanly speaking) done by the ministers present while these Acts were debated and passed. Regarding doctrine, worship, government and discipline there are few books that will be as helpful -- especially to elders and those advanced in the faith. Additionally, if you want a glimpse at the heart of the second Reformation this is one of the best places to look. It may also be considered "the eye of the Puritan storm," seeing that the Scottish Covenanters exerted such a godly influence among their English Presbyterian brothers (and the Westminster Assembly) during these days -- the two nations having covenanted with God (in the Solemn League and Covenant) for the international "reformation and defence of religion... the peace and safety of the three kingdoms... the glory of God, and the advancement of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, etc." Over 500 pages and indexed for easy reference to all major topics.
(Rare bound photocopy) $199.95-90%=19.99
(Hardcover photocopy) $39.00 (US funds)


The Wonders of the Most High: 125 Years History of the United Netherlands 1550-1675 (c. 1678)
The subtitle reads: "An Indication of the Causes, Ways and Means Whereby the United Provinces, Against the Expectation of the Whole World, Were Elevated in Such a Marvelous Way from their Previous Oppression to Such Great, Awe Inspiring Riches and Acclaim. As Related By Several Eminent Historians, and Which After the Manner of the Time are Compiled to a Necessary and Profitable Use." This book gives us an indication why the best theologians in the Netherlands were ready to swear the Solemn League and Covenant with their brethren in the British Isles (before Cromwell and his forces ruined these plans for a united international Protestant testimony). It shows us that the best Dutch Synods agreed with the British Covenanters regarding the civil magistrate (establishments), God's law, anti-tolerationism, historical testimony, true unity, false teachers, the Sabbath, "Roman feast days," worship, etc. For example, in the section "The Organ in the Worship Service and the Singing of Hymns," we read,

With one word, we judge this and other novelties, in these carefree days, a useless hindrance. This we also say of the introduction of new hymn-books, and present day ditties, which we do not find in God's Word; as also the playing and peeping of organs in the Church. The former are all against the decrees of our Synods. See about singing in the Church, the National Synod of Dordt held in 1578, art. 76; the National Synod held in Middelburg, 1581, art. 51; the National Synod held in the Hague, 1586, art 62; at which gatherings hymns not found in Scripture are expressly forbidden (in a footnote: those who would like to know more about singing of the Psalms, from the Old as well as the New Testament, can read the learned treatise by S. Omius, called 'Dissertation", the first book. Chapter 5, cap. 3).

It is known from Church history, that those who are after novelties, by introducing man-made hymns and errors, have corrupted the Congregation. Although these people have no wrong motives, it is nevertheless not advisable to follow in their steps, since we may receive from them copper instead of gold, as the Pious Peter Martyr witnessed about the time hymns were introduced into the Roman Church. See Peter Martyr on 1 Cor. 14:26. The words of lord van Aldegonde in this respect are remarkable. In the introduction to his book of Psalms he says, "The experience of earlier days has taught us that it is often harmful to introduce something which is not based on the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments." The Synod of Dordt, 1578, art. 77; of Middleburg, 1581; of Gerderland, 1640, art. 3, have all dealt with terminating, when determining the place of the organ in the Church. The statement made by the Synod of Dordt, 1574, art. 50, needs our special attention; where we read, "Concerning the use of Organs in the Congregation, we hold that according to 1 Cor. 14:19, it should not have a place in the Church; and where it is still used when the people leave the church, it is of no use but to forget what was heard before;" they witness that it is nothing but frivolity. It is also remarkable that lord Rivet, contending against the papists, mentions several of their authors, who condemn the novelty of the Organ, and point out that is is without profit. Rivet, Cathol. Orthodox. tom. 1, pag. 561.

To know the reason why Organs should be kept out of the church, read our learned theologians and their polemics about Organs against the Lutherans and Papists, see Faukee, about Psalm 45, pag. 20. Also Lodoc. Larenus, in cap. 12 Esa, pag. 47, where we find the story of the duty of Middleburg's consistory to do away with the Organ; Hoornbeek disput. 2, de Psalmodia. thes 7; Rivet, in Exod. cap. 15 vs. 12. Imprimis Gisb. Voetii. Polit. Eccl. part 1, pag. 548. Hospiniamus de Templis, pag. 309. It would be better if this and other novelties were not mentioned. (pp. 151-152)

Translated here for the first time from Dutch into English, this book may be a shocker to those not familiar with the Dutch Reformation and the faithful pronouncements of her Synods.
(Softcover) $19.95-20%=15.96


"The Whole Manner of Worship..." Worship and the Sufficiency of Scripture in Belgic Confession Article 7 (1997)
A great work for everyone interested in Reformed worship, but especially for those with a continental Reformed background. Dispels the idea that the regulative principle of worship "is something peculiar to the so-called Presbyterian tradition." This work demonstrates that the regulative principle of worship was an indispensable and foundational part of the Protestant Reformation -- being connected as it was to the battle over the sufficiency of Scripture. More specifically Bredenhof also proves that "the regulative principle is in fact found... in Article 7 of the Belgic Confession." Bredenhof writes, "(t)he regulative principle was a foundational truth in the contentions of the Reformed during the 16th century, and as such it should not surprise us to find it here in the Belgic Confession. Moreover, the relationship between the sufficiency of Scripture and worship further elucidates this significance, for it is the Reformational principle of sola Scriptura which is foundational for the regulative principle. Without the sufficiency of Scripture the regulative principle falls flat" (p. 21). Additionally, the author encourages the reader to hearken back to the old Reformed confessional standards (as they are agreeable to Scripture) and to "remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set" (Prov. 22:28). This is an important book for today as the old paths of Reformed worship are under attack from not only the classic enemies of the Reformed faith (such as Rome), but also, in many cases, from those (like Steve Schlissel, John Frame, Doug Wilson, etc.) that pretend to the name Reformed regarding worship, when in actuality they are "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9).
(Bound photocopy) $9.95-70%=2.99
(Hardcover photocopy) $14.00 (US funds)


The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism (1853)
A manual of instruction, drawing from such notable authors as William Symington and J.R. Willson, presenting "arguments and facts confirming and illustrating the 'Distinctive Principles'" of the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Chapters deal with: "Christ's Mediatorial Dominion in general;" Christ's exclusive Headship over the Church;" "The Supreme and Ultimate Authority of the Word of God in the Church;" Civil Government, the Moral Ordinance of God;" Christ's Headship over the Nations;" "The Subjection of the Nations to God and to Christ;" The Word, or Revealed Will of God, the Supreme Law in the State;" "The Duty of Nations, in their National Capacity, to acknowledge and support the True Religion:" "The Spiritual Independence of the Church of Christ:" "The Right and Duty of Dissent from an immoral Constitution of Civil Government;" "The Duty of Covenanting, and the Permanent Obligations of Religious Covenants;" "The Application of these Principles to the Governments, where Reformed Presbyterians reside, in the form of a Practical Testimony;" and finally "Application of the Testimony to the British Empire." A most important book, as we approach (possibly) the end of the great apostasy and will be in need of preparing for the dawning of the glorious millennial blessings to come; the days prophesied in which the church "shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings" (Isa. 60:16).
(Rare bound photocopy) $29.95-70%=8.99


The Duty and Perpetual Obligation of Social Covenanting
The material found in this bound photocopy addresses a forgotten and neglected ordinance of God: social covenanting. God's people in times of repentance and thanksgiving, trial and blessing have been a covenanting people. In the most pure times of ecclesiastical and civil reformation throughout history, both church and state under the mediatorial rule of Christ have by the grace of God bound themselves together by covenant to promote and defend the true Christian religion. The first document adopted by the Westminster Assembly was in fact, the Solemn League and Covenant (1644). It united the kingdoms of Scotland, England, and Ireland in a covenanted reformation of both church and state in order to preserve, promote and defend the true Christian religion (as summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Directory For Public Worship, and Form of Church Government), and in order to expose and uproot all false teaching contrary to the Scripture and these standards. Furthermore, it was not only the desire of the Westminster Assembly to unite in covenant the three British kingdoms, but rather to include in this covenanted reformation all of the Reformed Churches throughout Europe. Consider the goal of the Assembly as summarized by Hetherington: "There was one great, and even sublime idea, brought somewhat indefinitely before the Westminster Assembly, which has not yet been realized, the idea of a Protestant union throughout Christendom, not merely for the purpose of counterbalancing Popery, but in order to purify, strengthen, and unite all true Christian churches, so that with combined energy and zeal they might go forth, in glad compliance with the Redeemer's commands, teaching all nations, and preaching the everlasting gospel to every creature under heaven. This truly magnificent, and also truly Christian idea, seems to have originated in the mind of that distinguished man, Alexander Henderson. It was suggested by him to the Scottish commissioners, and by them partially brought before the English Parliament, requesting them to direct the Assembly to write letters to the Protestant Churches in France, Holland, Switzerland, and other Reformed Churches. . . . and along with these letters were sent copies of the Solemn League and Covenant, a document which might itself form the basis of such a Protestant union. The deep thinking divines of the Netherlands apprehended the idea, and in their answer, not only expressed their approbation of the Covenant, but also desired to join in it with the British kingdoms. Nor did they content themselves with the mere expression of approval and willingness to join. A letter was soon afterwards sent to the Assembly from the Hague, written by Duraeus (the celebrated John Dury), offering to come to the Assembly, and containing a copy of a vow which he had prepared and tendered to the distinguished Oxenstiern, chancellor of Sweden, wherein he bound himself 'to prosecute a reconciliation between Protestants in point of religion'. . . . [O]n one occasion Henderson procured a passport to go to Holland, most probably for the purpose of prosecuting this grand idea. But the intrigues of politicians, the delays caused by the conduct of the Independents, and the narrow-minded Erastianism of the English Parliament, all conspired to prevent the Assembly from entering farther into that truly glorious Christian enterprise. Days of trouble and darkness came; persecution wore out the great men of that remarkable period; pure and vital Christianity was stricken to the earth and trampled under foot. . ." (William Hetherington, History of the Westminster Assembly of Divines , [Edmonton, Alberta: Still Waters Revival Books], pp. 337-339). The material presented herein is commended to the reader with the sincere prayer and confidence that God will again restore the Church of Jesus Christ to a glorious covenanted reformation--one that will even surpass that one to which she had attained at the time of the Westminster Assembly. However, when the Lord brings that future covenanted reformation it will not be limited to only three kingdoms of the earth, but by the grace and power of Christ our King, it will be a covenanted reformation that will encompass all of the nations of the earth (Ps. 2:6-12; Is. 2:1-4; Mt. 28:1-20) and will bring to the church a visible unity and uniformity that (unlike pleas for unity today) is firmly grounded upon the truth" (Greg Price, Preface). The material contained in this compilation was gathered together by the session of the Puritan Reformed Church of Edmonton/Prince George. Its 210 pages contain the following items, as listed in this bibliography for social covenanting.
1. Samuel Rutherford, Due Right of Presbyteries , pp. 130-139
2. George Gillespie, The Works of George Gillespie, Vol. 2, pp. 71-88.
3. John Brown of Wamphray, An Apologetic Relation , pp. 167-175, 181- 207.
4. David Scott, Distinctive Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, pp. 14-90.
5. William Roberts, The Reformed Presbyterian Catechism , pp. 134- 152.
6. The Reformed Presbytery, An Explanation and Defence of the Terms of Communion , pp. 181-187.
7. The Reformed Presbytery, Act , Declaration and Testimony , pp. 11- 23.
8. The Reformed Presbytery, The Auchensaugh Renovation , pp. 115- 140.
9. The Church of Scotland (1639), The National Covenant of Scotland , pp. 345-354 in the Westminster Confession of Faith published by Free Presbyterian Publications.
10. The Westminster Assembly (1644), The Solemn League and Covenant , pp. 355-360 in the Westminster Confession of Faith published by Free Presbyterian Publications.
11. The Church of Scotland (1648), A Solemn Acknowledgement of Publick Sins and Breaches of the Covenant , pp. 361-368 in the Westminster Confession of Faith published by Free Presbyterian Publications.

(Rare bound photocopy) $22.95-70%=6.89


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Records of the Kirk of Scotland, Containing the Acts and Proceedings of the General Assemblies, From the Year 1638 Downwards, As Authenticated by the Clerks of Assembly; With Notes and Historical Illustrations, by Alexander Peterkin (1838 edition)