See also: What is a Covenant?
By 1641, king Charles I was coming more and more into conflict with the English Parliament. His two closest advisors, Archbishop Laud and Thomas Wentworth had been imprisoned in the Tower of London and would later be executed. Civil war between the king and the Parliament finally broke out in August 1642. By 1643, after the king had won a number of battles, Parliament began to look for help from Scotland.
The English wanted a military union with the Scots, but the Scots instead wanted a religious union which would see the Church of England become the same in belief, worship and church government as the Church of Scotland. As the Scottish minister Robert Baillie wrote, ‘The English were for a civil league, we for a religious covenant’. The end result was a mixture of both, and was mainly written by Alexander Henderson.
The Solemn League and Covenant aimed to keep protect the reformation of the Church of Scotland and to reform the Churches of England and Ireland, so that the three churches would be the same in church government, beliefs and worship. It also aimed to completely get rid of Roman Catholicism, Episcopalianism and any other wrong beliefs. It was signed by the Parliaments of England and Scotland and many people throughout England, Scotland and Ireland.
As a result of the covenant, Scotland also sent five ministers and three elders to the Westminster Assembly, which had been set up by the Long Parliament in July 1643 to give advice about reforming the Church of England. Although there were only a few of them, the Scots had a massive impact on the work of the Assembly. Following the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, the main work of the Westminster Assembly was in writing documents that would bring the Church of England, Scotland and Ireland as close together as possible.
The Solemn League and Covenant
BCW: Solemn League and Covenant,
David Stevenson, The Covenanters: The National Covenant and Scotland (Edinburgh, 1988), pp 45-58.
David Silversides – What the Solemn League and Covenant means for today