Rev  Alexander  Henderson.

 Along  with  his   friend, a brilliant   young  advocate named  Archibald  Johnson of  Warriston (later  Lord  Warriston )  Alexander  Henderson  was  responsible  for  the  drafting  of  both  the  National  Covenant  in  1638  and  the  Solemn  League  and  Covenant  in  1643. For  these  acts  alone  he  deserves  a  niche  in  Covenanting  history. But  it  fell  to  Henderson, as  Moderator  of  the  General  Assembly  that  met  in  November 1638  in St  Mungo`s  Cathedral  in  Glasgow, to  tell  the  Kings  representative 

Sir, if you must leave, we  must  remain until  our  duty  is  done .

Thus  began  the  civil  disobedience  of  the  Presbyterians  against  a  meddlesome  king.

 Born about 1583, In  his  early  years  Henderson  had  studied at St Andrews University and  in 1611 was chosen to teach  philosophy  at  the university.  in  1612 through the patronage of Archbishop Gladstanes, he was  forced  on  the  unwilling  parish  of  Leuchars  where the people were hostile to him.   At  that  time  he  was  a  prelatist  and  on  his  ordination  found  that  the  door  of  the  church  had  been  nailed  closed  against  him, and was  forced  to  break  in  through  a  window.  However, he  happened  upon  the Rev Robert  Bruce  recently returned from exile and  was  taken  with  his  preaching.  Robert Bruce may have had some indication that Henderson was in his auditory that day as his sermon began with

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not in by the door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."

The words so matched the ignominious way that Henderson had taken up his appointment, they clearly had a very great influence upon him and his eventual adoption of  the  Presbyterian  way.

Henderson  continued  for  some  time  in  his  quiet bookish  life and  grew  in  character  along with  his  Presbyterian  beliefs, developing  not  only as a theologian  of  considerable  merit, but  a  powerful  and  weighty  manner  of  speaking  that  simply  made  people  listen  to  him.   Some  have  said  that he  grew  in  holiness  but  it  was  a  small  man  with  great  character  and  presence that  was  a  solitary  voice  at  the  Perth  Assembly  in  1618  when  the  obnoxious  Articles  of  Perth  were  enacted. In due time he  became  a  counsellor  to  the  Tables (the ruling  body that was formed in 1637)  in  Edinburgh  and  would later  be  co  author  of  the  Covenants, three  times  Moderator  of  the  General  Assembly  and  a  commisioner  to  the  Divines  who  drew  up  the  Westminster  Confession  of  Faith.  This  he  was  to  cram  into  a  span  of  but  nine  years.

Henderson  was  held  in  the  highest  regard  by  his  peers. including  Rev Samuel  Rutherford and  Rev Dickson who regarded him as  the foremost  and most  statesman- like  of the  Presbyterian  clergy  of  the  day. 

Samuel Rutherford's, In a letter of 9 March 1637 wrote:

 "As for your case, my reverend and dearest brother, you are the talk of the north and the south, and so looked to as if you were all crystal glass; but your motes and your dust will soon be proclaimed, and trumpets blown at your slips. But I know you have laid your help upon One who is mighty. Trust not your comforts to men's airy and frothy applause, neither lay your downcastings on the tongues of the mockers and reproachers of godliness. God has called you to Christ's side; and seeing the wind is now in Christ's face, and you are with him, you cannot therefore expect the lee side of the ship, or the sunny side of the brae; but I know you have resolved to take Christ upon any terms."

 In  1637  Henderson  was  compromised  into  coming  into  the  open  about  his  support  for  the  Presbyterian  way  when  the  Archbishop  of   St  Andrews  instructed  him  to  purchase  two  copies  of  the  New  Liturgy  for  the  use  of  his  parish. Henderson  went  to  Edinburgh  and  stated  his  objections  to  the  Privy  Council  and  asked  that  the  Archbishops  instruction  be  cancelled.  The  Privy  Council , swayed  by  his  arguements  and  that of others, sent reports  of  the  general  opposition  to the Liturgy  to  London.  Henderson`s  skill  and  tact in  dealing  with the matter  did  not  go  unnoticed  by his  peers  as  well  as  his  adversaries when  events  turned  to  the  Covenant.

 The National  Covenant is  in  three  parts; the  first  reciting  the older  Covenant, sometimes  called  the  King  Confession, of  1581; the second  part  listed the  various  Acts  of  Parliament  which  condemned  Popery  and  confirmed  the  privileges  of  the  Reformed  church; and  the  third  part  was  an  emphatic  protest  against  the  alien  methods  of  worship  which  had  provoked  the  troubles  of  1638.  Archibald  Johnston, Lord  Wariston  authored  the  second  part  and  Alexander  Henderson  the  third  part.

 So  it  was that he was  dragged  to  centre  stage  and  fame  by  his  election  as  the  Moderator  of  the  General  Assembly  that  met  in Glasgow  from  21  November  to  20 December  1638.  Hendersons  moment  came  when  on  28  November  the  Kings  representative, the Marquis  of  Hamilton, protested  at  the  presence of  the  lay  elders  (  including  some  of  the  most  powerful  noblemen  such as Rothes, Lothian,. Cassilis, Eglintoun, Montrose, Wemyss  and  Home ).  Hamilton  also  protested  at  the  sentence  on  the  Bishops and  denied  the  Assembly  had  authority  to  act  in  Episcopalian  matters.  If  they  persisted, he said, he  must  pronounce  the  Assembly dissolved  and  its  enactments  invalid. It  fell  to  Henderson  to  calmly  reply  and  said  the  Assembly  had  no  choice  but  to remain  until  their  duty  was  done.   The  Marquis  departed  and  next  day  issued  a  proclamation  ordering  all  who  were  not  normally  resident in  Glasgow  to  leave  the  city  within  twenty  four  hours. 

It  was  in  Glasgow  at  this  time  that  Henderson  spent  time  in  prayer  with  the  Marquis  of  Argyll  and  to  whom  credit  is  given  for  conversion  of  the  most  powerful  man  in  Scotland.  It  was  Argyll  alone  of  the  nobles  present  ( he was  there  as a member of the Privy  Council )  who  made  his  support  clear  for  the  General  Assembly  and  advised  them  to  continue  as  if  nothing  had  happened. Henderson  warmly  welcomed  the support of the Marquis  and the  General  Assembly  proceeded  to deal  severely  with  the  Acts  of  previous  Assemblies  that  had  ratified  Episcopacy; the  Service  Book, the  Canons, the  Court  of  High  Commission  and  the  Articles  of  Perth,  were  all  annulled.  Eight  bishops  were  excommunicated  and  six  more  deposed  or  suspended; and, finally,  the  National  Covenant  that  Henderson  had  helped  to  write, was  confirmed.

 It  was  not  without  a  hint  of  irony  that  in  1641  while in Edinburgh  King  Charles  went  to  hear  Henderson  preach  and  acknowledged  the  man`s  dignity  and  honesty  by  making  him  a royal  chaplain.  Thus  Henderson  spent  some  time  both  holding  services  for  the  King  and  the  royal  family  in  Holyrood  Palace  and  also  discussed church  matters  with  the  King.

 Henderson  comes  to  the  fore  again  five  years  later  when  the  Solemn  League  and  Covenant  was  sworn  in  1643.  In  England  the  Parliamentary  armies  were  suffering  a  string  of  defeats  and  desperately  needed  allies  and  troops. It was with  this  military  help  in mind  that  a  deputation  went  to  see  The  Convention of Estates  in  Edinburgh  and  the  General Assembly  in  St  Andrews.  The  English  deputation  was  successful  and  needed  some  form  of  written  agreement  or  treaty  between  them. They  were  in  favour  of  a  political  and  civil  agreement  but  the  Scots  with  an  interest  in  saving  souls, and  a  higher  objective  of  religious  conformity  in  the  three  kingdoms,  wanted  a religious  covenant.  So  it  was  that Alexander  Henderson  drew  up  the  bond  between  the  two  countries - the  Solemn  League  and  Covenant  of  1643.. 

 In  the  summer  of  1646, when  in  the  sanctuary  of  the  Scottish  Camp  at  Newcastle,  King  Charles  requested  that  Henderson  should  come  and  discuss  with  him the  question  of  Church  government.  This  Henderson  did, although  not  a  well  man  he  travelled  from  London  to  attend  on  the  King.  It  was  in  mid  July  that  Henderson  decided  to  leave  his  lodgings  in  Newcastle  and  to  make  for  Leith  by  ship, wishing  to  go  to  his  homeland  before it was too late.. He arrived  in  Edinburgh  a  man  worn  out  by  nine  years  of  almost  unceasing  pressure  and  dedication  to  the  Presbyterian  cause, and worn  out  in  body. He died  on  16  August  1646  in  his  sixty  third  year saying  Never  school  boy more  longed  for the breaking  up  than  I  do to  have  leave  of  this  world .

 He  is  buried  in  Greyfriard  Kirkyard  beneath  a  monument  inscribed :

Reader  bedew  thine  eyes
Not for the dust here lyes -
It  quicken  shall again,
And aye in  joy remain
But for thyself, the Church and States
Whose woes this dust prognosticates.

 

Hendersons  monument  bears  the  marks  of later  troubles  when, shortly  after  the  Restoration in 1660,  the  inscription  was  defaced  on  the  order  of  the  Kings Commissioner, the Earl  of  Middleton , and  traces  of  bullet  marks  can  be  seen from  shots  fired  by  soldiers  sent  to  deface  the  monument. After the `Glorious Revolution` the  inscription  was  restored.

18/07/2011

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