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Welcome to Scotland’s Forgotten History. On this episode we are in the City of London on Basinghall Street. Today it is a bustling street with modern buildings with few traces of history. On the 14th January 1645, however, it would have witnessed a different kind of activity. All the dignitaries of the local government in London were making their way here to the church of Michael Basing-shaw for a service. The Lord Mayor of London, the Sherriffs and Aldermen and the whole council of London were there. The purpose of the service was prayer and fasting and to have the Solemn League and Covenant renewed.
A sermon from that occasion by Edmund Calamy (the most popular preacher in London) would be reprinted at various times in Scotland in future generations. The other preacher was the minister of that church and (like Calamy) a member of the Westminster Assembly, the puritan Simeon Ashe. His sermon on Psalm 76:11 reveals the degree of commitment to the Solemn League and Covenant at the time. In fact the sermon mentions the nation of Scotland regularly. The obvious reason for this was that this covenant solemnly bound the two nations together in seeking reformation.
Ashe presses these requirements on the assembled dignitaries.
Are you not guilty of sinful declinings in a great degree from your former engagements unto the Lord? (he asks). Have you not lost your first love?…Hath not your care to preserve the truth of Religion from corruption been much abated? (and then he asks) Is not your love towards our Brethren of Scotland in a great measure lessened? …Doubtless these and such like backslidings from former engagements, may well warrant your Covenant-renewing with your God.
Later he says that:
The soul should with love, joy and longings, work towards the speedy settling of Church-government according to the word of God, and towards the maintaining of brotherly union between the two Kingdoms of England and Scotland, together with the more full reformation of ourselves and families.
Say thus unto your own souls seriously in secret;…I will stir up my best friends by importunity, and I will industriously take all courses within the compass of my general and particular calling, that myself and my family, that this Church and Common-wealth may be reformed, and that unity betwixt England and Scotland, may be preserved according to the solemn League and Covenant.
Perhaps an additional aspect of Ashe’s concern for Scotland was the friendship that he formed with the Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. In later years Robert Baillie and Samuel Rutherford continued to correspond with Ashe.
You can imagine that Ashe and Rutherford had much in common because one of his great concerns was that Christ would be preached as much as possible. Samuel Rutherford spoke of him as the “Gracious and zealous Mr. Ashe”.
When Baillie and Rutherford were estranged by the wider disagreements within the Scottish Church of the 1650s, Ashe tried to do what he could to help. Baillie acknowledged to his “very loving brother”, that Ashe had on past occasions written to the Scots looking for prayer and help in times of trouble. Now he himself was able to demonstrate his sincere affection for the cause of Christ in Scotland. Others also wrote to Ashe saying that they still remembered his “brotherly kindness” and would do so “so long as we shall live”.
It’s worth knowing that some of those who had an impact in Scotland’s Forgotten history were not necessarily Scottish or those who visited Scotland. The faithful and affectionate prayers, longings and words of godly men such as Simeon Ashe are not to be forgotten.