The King's Confession (1581)

Author:  We Are Reformed
Date: March 8, 2022

The Protestant statement of belief drawn up by John Craig in 1581 when it was feared that Popery might be revived in Scotland. It was signed by King James (VI of Scotland); hence its common designation. It formed the basis of the National Covenant of 1638.

The following confession is from a reprint facsimile of John Craig’s A Shorte Summe of the Whole Catechisme (1608). Spelling and punctuation have been modernized to provide easier reading. You can also download a PDF version we have uploaded.


We all, and every one of us underwritten, protest that after long and due examination of our own consciences in matters of true and false religion, are now thoroughly resolved in the truth by the Word and Spirit of God.

And therefore we believe with our hearts, confess with our mouths, and subscribe with our hands and constantly affirm before God and the whole world that this is the only true Christian faith and religion pleasing God and bringing salvation to man, which is now by the mercy of God revealed to the world by the preaching of the blessed gospel, and is received, believed, and defended by many and sundry notable churches and realms, but chiefly by the Church of Scotland, the king’s majesty and three estates of this realm, as God’s eternal truth and only ground of our salvation, as more particularly is expressed in the confession of our faith, established and publicly confirmed by sundry acts of Parliament, and now of a long time has been openly professed by the king’s majesty and whole body of the realm, both in city and country.

To which confession and form of religion we willingly agree in our consciences in all points as to God’s undoubted truth and verity grounded only upon His written Word. And therefore we abhor and detest all contrary religion and doctrine, but chiefly all kinds of papistry in general and particular, even as they are now damned and confuted by the Word of God and Church of Scotland.

But specially, we detest and refuse the usurped authority of the Roman Antichrist over the Scriptures of God, over the church, the civil magistrates, and consciences of men—all his tyrannous laws made upon indifferent things against our Christian liberty; his erroneous doctrine against the sufficiency of the written Word, the perfection of the law, the office of Christ and His blessed gospel; his corrupted doctrine concerning original sin, our natural inability and rebellion to God’s law; his blasphemy against our justification by faith only, our imperfect satisfaction and obedience to the law, the nature, number and use of the holy sacraments.

We detest his five bastard sacraments with all his rites, ceremonies, and false doctrines added to the administration of the true sacraments without the Word of God; his cruel judgments against infants departing without the sacrament; his absolute necessity of baptism; his blasphemous opinion of transubstantiation or real presence of Christ’s body in the sacrament, and receiving of the same by the wicked or bodies of men; his dispensations with solemn oaths, perjuries, and degrees of marriage forbidden in the Word; his cruelty against the innocent divorced.

We abhor his devilish Mass; his blasphemous priesthood; his profane sacrifice for the sins of the dead and the quick; his canonization of men and women saints, calling upon angels or departed saints, worshipping of imagery, relics, crosses, dedicating of churches, altars, days, vows to creatures; his purgatory, prayer for the dead, praying or speaking in a strange language; his processions and blasphemous litany; his multitude of advocates or mediators, with his manifold orders and auricular confession; his desperate and uncertain repentance; his general and doubting faith; his satisfactions of men for their sins; his justification by works; his opus operatum, works of supererogation, merits, pardons, peregrinations and stations.

We detest his profane holy water, baptizing of bells, conjuring of spirits, crossing, signing, anointing, conjuring; his hallowing of God’s good creatures with the superstitious opinion joined therewith; his worldly monarchy and wicked hierarchy; his three solemn vows, with all his shavelings [shaved-headed monks] of sundry sorts; his erroneous and bloody decrees made at Trent, with all the subscribers and approvers of that cruel and bloody band conjured against the church of God. And finally, we detest all his vain allegories, rites, signs, and traditions brought in the church without or against the Word of God and doctrine of this Reformed church.

To which we join ourselves willingly in doctrine, faith, religion, discipline, and use of the holy sacraments as lively members of the same with Christ our head, promising and swearing by the great name of our Lord that we shall continue in the obedience of the doctrine and discipline of this church and shall defend the same according to our vocation and power all the days of our lives under the pains contained in the law and danger both of body and soul, in the day of God’s fearful judgment. And seeing that many are stirred up by Satan and the Roman Antichrist to promise, swear, subscribe and for a time to use the holy sacraments in the church deceitfully against their own consciences, minding hereby first under the external cloak of religion to corrupt and subvert secretly God’s true religion within the church, and afterward, when time may serve, to become open enemies and persecutors of the same under vain hope of the pope’s dispensation, denied against the Word of God, to his greater confusion and their double condemnation in the day of the Lord Jesus. We therefore, willing to take away all suspicion of hypocrisy and of such double dealing with God and His church, protest and call the searcher of all hearts for witness that our minds and hearts do fully agree with this our confession, promise, oath, and subscription; so that we are not moved for any worldly respect, but are persuaded only in our conscience through the knowledge and love of God’s true religion imprinted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, as we shall answer Him in the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed.

And because we perceive that the quietness and stability of our religion and church depends upon the safety and good behavior of the king’s majesty, as upon a comfortable instrument of God’s mercy granted to this country for the maintaining of His church and administration of justice among us, we protest and promise with our hearts that we shall defend his person and authority with our bodies and lives in the defense of Christ’s gospel, liberty of our country, the administration of justice, and punishment of iniquity against all enemies within this realm or without, as we desire our God to be a strong and merciful defender to us in the day of our death and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory eternally. Amen.

The names of all the subscribers contained in the principal copy, written in parchment and kept in the hands of the Ministers.

The King’s Majesty’s Charge to All the Commissioners and Ministers within This Realm.

Seeing that we and our household have subscribed and given this public confession of our faith to the good example of our subjects, we command and charge all commissioners and ministers to crave the same confession of their parishioners and to proceed against refusers according to our laws and order of the church, delivering their names and lawful process to the ministers of our house with all haste and diligence under the pain of 40 pounds to be taken from their stipends; that we with the advice of our Council may take order with such proud contemnors of God and our laws.

Signed with our hand at Holyroode-house, the 11th day of March, 1580, the 14th year of our reign.

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