Doing Politics as a Presbyterian Has Always been Rough

From Michael Winship’s Hot Protestants (on the Presbyterian predicament after regicide and at the beginning of Oliver Cromwell’s government):

Some Presbyterians . . . focused their hope for reformation on their beheaded king’s nineteen-yer-old son Charles, in exile in the Netherlands. It was true that young Charles was a carousing, womanizing, anti-puritan, but to Presbyterians viewing him through rose-tinted glasses, all that this ungodliness meant was that their uncrowned but lawful sovereign was in the hands of evil counselors, like his father Charles I, his grandfather James I, and Elizabeth I had been. It was these counselors who kept him from recognizing puritanism’s truth. Presbyterians regarded themselves as bound by the Solemn League and Covenant to try to separate their prince from these wicked influences and get him into the safe hands of the covenanted Scots. More realistic Presbyterians recognized that this sow’s ear of a teenaged reprobate could not be transformed into a godly silk purse and that to think otherwise was in itself ungodly. The Scots, meanwhile, were horrified at the execution of their monarch Charles I by an army of English lawless heretics. The Scottish government immediately recognized this son as Charles II, king of Great Britain, Ireland, and France. But the Scots told him they would let him return to his kingdom of Scotland only on one heavy condition: Charles would have to sear to the Solemn League and Covenant. (141)

Makes President Trump look like a piece of cake.

The Republication-2K Connection

One of the authors cited in Merit and Moses is Patrick Ramsey, who defended Moses in the Westminster Theological Journal and included in his defense the following point about the value of the law (third use) according to the Confession of Faith (19.6):

According to this section of the Confession, the curses (“threatenings”) of the Mosaic Law teach the regenerate what temporal afflictions they may expect when they sin while the blessings (“promises”) instruct them concerning the benefits they may expect when they obey. Saving faith “trembles” at these curses and “embraces” the blessings for “this life, and that which is to come.”

“To establish a connection between obedience and blessing and disobedience and cursing is for many—notably antinomians—to establish in some sense a covenant of works. The divines were certainly aware of this possible misunderstanding. After all, they debated this issue for years. Consequently, they made it explicitly clear that such a connection does not in any form or fashion indicate that man is under a covenant of works (Ramsey, “In Defense of Moses.” Westminster Theological Journal 66 [2004]: 14-15).

Aside from the danger of teaching a prosperity gospel (if you’re well off, you must be doing something right in God’s accounting scheme), Ramsey may have way more confidence in the Westminster Divines than he should about possible misunderstandings of obedience to the law since they lived at a time when lots of Christians regularly compared their own nation to the nation of Israel. This meant that wars were God’s judgment upon the people’s sin, and victory in war was a sign of God’s blessing. Proof of this in the case of the Assembly was their reaffirmation of the Solemn League and Covenant which more or less kicked off their deliberations of matters like covenant theology and law (and likely accounts for the confessional oddity of including an entire chapter on oaths and vows — I’d love to see a candidate for ordination pressed by a presbyter to defend Chapter 22).

Ramsey may be okay with comparing England to Israel. But I’ll take the cautions of republication about the uniqueness of the Mosaic Covenant when it comes God’s blessings and cursings upon the covenant nation. Israel was a type of the first and second Adams. England was not and still is not, no matter how much you invoke Shakespeare. And don’t get me started on the U.S. as a “Christian nation.”