From: A CLOUD OF WITNESSES, by Rev. John H. Thomson
as published by Ages Software
In memory of the late Reverend James Renwick, the last who suffered to death for attachment to the Covenanted Cause of Christ in Scotland — born near this spot, 15th February 1662, and executed at the Grassmarket, Edinburgh, 17th February 1688.
JAMES RENWICK was born February 15, 1662, at Moniaive, in the parish of Glencairn, Dumfriesshire. His father, Andrew Renwick, was a weaver, and in profession and practice a fervent and faithful Christian, which was enough, says Alexander Shields in his Life of Renwick, to nobilitate the birth of his worthy son, who had what honor was wanting in his first birth made up in the second. He died as he lived, in the Lord, February 1st, 1676, the same day twelve years after that his son was taken to die for the Lord [age 26].
His mother, Elizabeth Corsan, was of like piety with her husband. She had several children, but all died previous to the birth of James. Their loss filled her with grief. Her husband tried to comfort her by declaring that he was well satisfied if his children, die when they might, were heirs of glory. Her prayer, however, was Hannah like, for a child from the Lord that might not only be an heir of glory, but live to serve Him on earth. When James was born, she received him as an answer to prayer, and felt herself bound to dedicate him to the Lord. It soon appeared that the dedication was accepted. As he learned to speak he learned to pray. His mother lovingly tells, that, by the time he was but two years of age, he was discerned to be aiming at prayer even in the cradle and about it. Along with the work of grace on his soul, his natural faculties came to early ripeness. He could read the Bible in his sixth year, a wonderful attainment in that century, when learning was not made easy as it is now; and' ' "his inclination was constant for his book."
With some difficulty his parents kept him at the parish school, for they were poor, until means were found, through the assistance of friends who admired the good parts of the boy, of sending him to Edinburgh. Here he remained until ready for the University, which he attended until he passed through the classes necessary for a degree. The piety of his childhood was not cast aside by him when a student at college. He resisted the temptations that abound in a city, and at the close of his curriculum such was his tenderness of conscience, that he would not take the oath of allegiance required before the degree of Master of Arts could be conferred.
But shortly afterwards, by some means not mentioned by his first biographer, he, along with other two students, obtained the degree privately, without taking the oath of allegiance.
After taking his degree he remained in the capital for some time, prosecuting his studies in theology, and associating with the indulged ministers, or with those who, unable to comply with the Erastian demands of the government, lived in retirement in Edinburgh or in its neighborhood. Their silence respecting the sins of the time, and the spectacle of the frequent martyrdoms that took place, set him a thinking, and led him to inquire after ministers who had not in any form consented to the supremacy exercised by the crown over the church. These he could not find, while he at the same time came to the conclusion that he could no longer attend the ministrations of the indulged. The execution of Donald Cargill, at which he was present, so moved him that he determined to adopt the martyrs' testimony, and to cast in his lot with the persecuted. He entered heartily into the plan formed in the close of 1681, by those who sympathized with the cause for which the martyrs suffered, of establishing societies throughout the country, to meet at regular intervals for prayer and conference.
He was present at the publication of the Declaration at Lanark, January 12, 1682, although he had no share in drawing it up, otherwise he would have softened some of its expressions. In the same year, the Societies sent Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun to the United Provinces, in order to vindicate themselves from the slanders that had been circulated, to their discredit, among the foreign churches. One result of this mission was, that steps were taken to send young men abroad to study for the Christian ministry. In the "Faithful Contendings," in the account of the fifth General Meeting of the Societies, held at Edinburgh, October 11, 1682, is recorded what was done to send out Renwick and three companions. Twenty-five pounds Scots were voted to each to defray the expenses of the voyage, as well as what was needful to provide them in clothes and other necessaries. Renwick sailed in December, and went to Groningen, where John a Marck, the author of the "Medulla Theologia" —a favorite text book with Dr. Chalmers — was at that time Professor of Divinity and Church History. Here he made such progress in his studies, that, at the recommendation of Marck himself, he was ordained by the Classis of Groningen, 10th May 1683. He left Holland early in the following August, and, after a long and stormy passage, in which the vessel had to put into Rye, in Sussex, where he narrowly escaped apprehension, he reached Dublin. Here, after a short stay, he found friends who procured him a passage to Scotland. But his difficulties were not at an end, for all the harbors were then strictly watched, and the captain at first would not land him but at a regular port. At last he was prevailed to put him ashore, tradition says, somewhere below Gourock.
It was September when he arrived, but he refrained from preaching until the tenth General Meeting — October 3, 1683 — at Darmead, in Cambusnethan parish, where he gave an account of his studies; and handed in his testimony to the truths of God, and to His cause; a document drawn up by him before he left Groningen, and containing some expressions which he afterwards regretted, but valuable as showing how well acquainted he was, at that early age, with the true state of the controversy between the persecuted and the Government, and how earnestly he had espoused the cause for which the martyrs suffered. At this meeting they gave him a call to be their minister, which he accepted, and entered on his ministry by preaching at the same place, Sabbath, November 23.
William Wilson, in his collection of sermons by Renwick, has given notes of the discourses he preached that day. After a short preface he lectured on Isaiah 40:1-8: "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God," etc.; and preached two sermons on Isaiah 26:20:
"Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast."
The notes of the lecture are meager: they occupy little more than two octavo pages; but those of the sermons are much fuller: they extend to seventeen pages, and are evidently a faithful report of what he said. They are remarkable sermons for one so young in years, and more than justify the recommendation of Marck, that he should be ordained as speedily as possible.
Those who fancy that the burden of Renwick's preaching was upon matters of church government, and declamation against the tyranny of the time, will have their fancies sent to the winds when they read such a statement of the Gospel message, and such impassioned pleading that men would come to Christ, as are contained in the following paragraphs, in illustration of the proposition — "There is both ability and willingness in the Lord to give you whatsoever your necessity requires."
"There is Ability. What would you have? Salvation and deliverance? then He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto Him. Lift up your eyes, and behold a wonder which you cannot know, and put forth this question, 'Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? — this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength?' [Isa 63:1] And His answer will be unto you: 'It is I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.' Gainsay it who will, the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. He shall see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied.
"And now, methinks, I hear some of you saying, All this is true; we can set to our seals to it. But is He willing? This is our question.
"Willing He is indeed. He is not more able than He is willing. What are all His promises, but declarations of His free willingness? What are all His sweet invitations, but to tell you that He is willing, and ye are welcome. 'Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely.' [Rev 22:17] Ah! what say you to it? Give us your seal to His willingness also. Go, say you, why not? you have it. Then come away, there is no more wanting, save, Come; we know He is willing, and we set to our seal to His willingness. But is He willing to receive me? Satisfy me in this, and then I will be right. Ah cheat! ye are taking your word back again now, and lifting off your seal. If ye except not yourself, He will not except you. His invitation is unto all: 'Every one, come; he that thirsteth, come; he that hath no money, come.' [Isa 55:1]
"Now, why will ye be so ill to yourselves, as to debar yourselves? for He doth not do it. Ye may as well and as rationally say, that ye are not a body as to say He debars you. His invitation is to every one. Now assent to this; and then, before you except yourself: out of this invitation, you must first say you have not a being, neither of soul nor body. We say, for you to think that He excepts you, it is all one as to deny yourself to be one of the children of Adam.
"Now, O come, come niggard! what aileth thee? Come, what would ye have that is not in Christ? Oh! that sweet invitation, Come! we cannot tell you what is in it. There is a depth in it that all the angels in heaven cannot fathom. It is no less than Jesus Christ, who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification, [Rom 4:25] spreading forth His arms and inviting you. He is opening up Himself — His all-sufficiency and super-transcendent excellency — and calling to all poor, needy things, 'Come, here is enough for you; give in your desires, and you shall have them satisfied to the full.' What, then, have ye to say to the bargain? Come, come; it is a rich commodity, and there is no sticking at the price; only receive and have — the easiest of all terms. There is no more required at your hands.
"But say ye, ha! sir, ye go without your bounds; the invitation in your text is to His people only: ye are, then, all wrong. We are not so far wrong as ye trow [i.e., believe], for the invitation is to His people to enter into their chambers, and to all who will come and become His people to enter into their chambers; and so this is a free market. We must invite all to come. Ye who are enemies, lay down your arms against Him, and come. Ye who are upholding His enemies, and complying with them in their sinful courses and abominations, by paying them cess and locality, and by furnishing them meat and drink (which is more than a bidding them God speed, which the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of John, forbids), quit the putting of the sword into God's enemies' hands, and come. Ye who have given bonds to the adversary; break your covenant with hell and death, and come; break your sworn allegiance to the devil, and come and swear a new allegiance to Jesus Christ, and ye shall never rue it. Ye who compear [i.e., appear] before their courts, and pay them fines, whereby ye both acknowledge them who are robbers of God, and call your duty your sin, quit these courses, and come. Ye who go to the curates, leave these perjured, blind guides, and come. Ye who go to the indulged, leave these traitors to God. Ye who go to the backslidden, silent ministers, leave these betrayers of the cause, and deserters of the cross of Christ, and come; leave all these, and follow Him; He is a true guide, and will be so to you. Ye who any ways seek or take the enemy's protection, leave it, and come; come to Him, and ye shall find chambers indeed both for safety and delight. All ye that are strangers to Him, come; ye that are in nature, come; and ye that know Him, come. We must preach this word 'Come' unto you so long as ye are here, until ye be transplanted out of this spiritual warfare into celestial triumph. Oh! sirs, come, come, ask what ye will, and He shall give it. Oh! come, come!
The reader of these paragraphs will not wonder that Renwick at once became a favorite preacher among the persecuted Covenanters, and that there were demands for his services from many quarters. In a few months, in the first year of his ministry, he is said to have baptized no less than six hundred children. His fame as a preacher soon came to the ears of the enemies of liberty then in power, and August 30th, 1684, the form of summoning him before the Privy Council was gone through at the Cross of Edinburgh and the Pier of Leith; and, in the following month, letters of intercommuning were issued against him, in which he is called, after the fashion in which the Government of the time were wont to speak of the salt of the earth, a seditious vagabond and pretended preacher, is accused of debauching some of our unwary subjects into the same wicked, unnatural, and seditious principles with himself, and closing with the following sentences, as notable for their virulence as for their grammar:
"We command and charge all and sundry our lieges and subjects that they nor none of them presume, nor take upon hand to reset, supply or intercommune with the said Mr. James Renwick, rebel foresaid; nor furnish him with meat, drink, house, harbor, victual nor no other thing useful or comfortable to him; or to have intelligence with him by word writ or message or any other manner of way whatsoever under pain of being esteemed art and part with him in the crimes foresaid, and pursued therefore with all rigor to the terror of others. And we hereby require all our Sheriffs to apprehend and commit to prison, the person of the said Mr. James Renwick wherever they can find or apprehend him."
Renwick and the Societies answered the Letters of Intercommuning by the Apologetic Declaration. The Government rejoined by a proclamation, characterized by the same wild fury of expression as the Letters of Intercommuning, in which 'the Societies are styled insolent and desperate rebels, and the Declaration execrable and treasonable. At the same time, sterner and more relentless measures than ever were taken to suppress the meetings of the Societies, and to seize the persons of their members. The Lords of the Privy Council asked the opinion of the Court of Session whether an owning of the Apologetic Declaration was an act of treason, and received as answer that it was. Fortified by this answer, it was resolved that all who owned, or would not disown, the Apologetic Declaration, whether they had arms or not, should be immediately put to death, wherever persons holding the commission of the Council might find them; provided two witnesses were present. The result of these steps was that of all the twenty-eight years of persecution, 1685 was the most terrible and most marked by the cruelty of the persecutor. Renwick himself had many a hairbreadth escape, yet none of his meetings was ever surprised by the emissaries of Government; and persecution had no other effect upon him than to strengthen his conviction that the work he was engaged in was the Lord's. And by the grace and goodness of God, says his biographer and companion in tribulation, Alexander Shields, he was still more animated and enlarged in spirit, and enabled in body to increase his diligence in preaching, baptizing, and examining every week once at least; which had such success, that a great and effectual door was opened to the bringing in of many to Christ, out of ignorance and darkness of nature, and bringing back many from the times' sins and compliances, and calling out such multitudes, flocking after the persecuted Gospel ordinances in the open fields, that it was impossible for him to answer all the calls he received from all parts to preach to them.
At the nineteenth general meeting of the Societies, held May 28, 1685, at Blackgannoch, on the Spango Water, in the parish of Kirkconnel, the second Sanquhar Declaration was agreed upon.
Immediately after the meeting, about two hundred and twenty men drew up in arms, and marched to Sanquhar, five miles to the south of Blackgannoch, where, after a psalm and prayer by Renwick, the Declaration was published, and a copy left on the Cross. The Declaration is manifestly from the pen of Renwick, and is a well expressed vindication of the Societies from the charge of encouraging assassination brought against them by their enemies, as well as a protestation against the illegality of the Duke of York, a professed Papist, ascending the throne as James II. Defiant as was this Declaration, the Government found it most prudent to take no notice of it. They evidently felt that the less said about the religion of the new king the better.
But the misrepresentations of Renwick and the Societies by their enemies did not cease. The failure of the Earl of Argyle's enterprise, which Renwick had refused to join until its aims were stated more in harmony with the principles he had been accustomed to maintain, increased the numbers of those who misrepresented him, but his usual answer, when told of their misrepresentations was, "I will not say so of them," while he charged his friends not to contend with such weapons, and to have a care not to render railing for railing. Slanders, too, rose up among the members of the Societies, but he pursued his course undeterred by all that might be said against him.
In December 1686, a reward of 100 pounds sterling was offered to any one who should bring in James Renwick dead or alive, but it had no effect in leading any of his followers to betray him.
In 1687, three successive proclamations were issued, allowing Presbyterians to meet in their private houses for worship and preaching, but field meetings were strictly forbidden. The object of Government in these proclamations was to prepare the way for the legal toleration of Popery. Many, however, took advantage of these proclamations, and some ministers went so far as, in rather a fulsome manner, to thank the Government for the fettered permission afforded them to preach. Renwick drew up an answer to the proclamations, came into Edinburgh, January 1688, and gave a copy of it to Mr. Hugh Kennedy, then indulged minister in Edinburgh, to be communicated to the rest of his brethren. From Edinburgh he went to Fife, where he preached in several places, and for the last time at Borrowstounness on January 29. Notes of a sermon preached on January 24, from Psalm 45:10: "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine eye; forget also thine own people and thy father's house," of a second, preached January 27 from Luke 12:32: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom,' and of his last sermon, from Isaiah 53:1:" Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed," are in Wilson's collection. They are obviously not so well reported as the notes of his first sermon, but they are full enough to show the expository, the evangelical, and earnest character of his preaching up to his last days, If there be any change in these later sermons from the first, it is to the better, for they present more exhaustively the lessons taught in the text.
He returned to Edinburgh, January 31. He lodged in the Castle Hill, at the head of the Bow, in the house of a friend, John Lookup, near where Free St. John's Church now stands. The house was that of a trader in what were called "uncustomed goods from England," a profession in that age, from the character of the men then in power, by no means looked upon with disfavor by patriotic Scotsmen. An excise officer on the watch for contraband goods heard family prayer in the house, and suspected the voice was that of Renwick. He had the house surrounded next morning about daybreak. An entrance was soon made, when the excise officer exclaimed, "My life for it, this is Mr. Renwick," and declared that all within must go to the guardhouse, to show what trade they were of. Renwick rejoined, "I shall soon show you what is my trade."
The excise officer now went out to the street and called for assistance to carry the dog Renwick to the guardhouse. Meanwhile Renwick, with two friends in the house, tried to escape by another door, but it was found watched by the excise officers, and when one of the two sought to break through he was driven back. At this Renwick fired a pistol, which at once opened a way for himself and friends, but as they went out he received a blow from a staff that partly stunned him, and made him fall once or twice as he ran down the Castle Wynd towards the head of the Cowgate, where he lost his hat. By his falls the pursuers gained on him, and the loss of his hat marked him out, so that he was soon caught by a person on the street, but his two friends made their escape. He was taken to the guardhouse, and put in irons by the order of a committee of Council. He was examined on February 3. He himself has given an account of his examination in a letter contained in the Collection of his Letters, (Letter 55) When he was searched, his pocket-book was taken from him, but it contained nothing but a few names in full, as many more in the first letter only, and notes of two sermons which he had preached January 18, at the Braid Craigs, two miles south from Edinburgh, at a place still pointed out. These names, as their owners were out of danger, he readily explained.
On February 3, he received his indictment, which will be found in full in Wodrow. He was tried Wednesday, February 8, and was sentenced to be executed the following Friday. The Lord Justice General, Earl of Linlithgow, asked him if he desired longer time. He replied it was all one to him; if it was protracted it was welcome, if shortened it was welcome; his Master's time was the best time. Without his knowledge, however, the day of execution was delayed for another week.
During this week his friends were forbidden to see him, and every effort was made by the government to get him to petition for a reprieve. Writing materials were taken from him, but he managed to write the testimony and letter that follow. On the morning of execution he wrote a short letter to his dear friend Sir Robert Hamilton, full of faith and confidence. He says, "I go to your God and my God. Death to me is as a bed to the weary. Now, be not anxious, the Lord will maintain His cause and own His people; He will show His glory yet in Scotland; farewell." The compilers of the "Cloud" have given a short account of his last words, to which we have added Alexander Shields' narrative of what he said just before he was executed. He was buried in the Greyfriars Churchyard. A monument was erected to his memory in 1828, at Moniaive, near the farmhouse where tradition says he was born.
In 1687, James Renwick, in conjunction with Alexander Shields, drew up the only work ever published by him: "An Informatory Vindication of a Poor, Wasted, Misrepresented Remnant of the Suffering, Anti-popish, Anti-prelatic, Anti-erastian, Anti-sectarian, true Presbyterian Church of Christ in Scotland; United together in a General Correspondence; By way of Reply to various Accusations in Letters, Informations, and Conferences given forth against them." The first eighteen, or perhaps the first thirty, of its 108 pages bear traces of Alexander Shields, but the rest is evidently from Renwick himself. It is much to be regretted that the "Informatory Vindication" should be so little known, as its ability, its catholicity, and its terseness and clearness of statement make it one of the most readable documents of that age, and altogether worthy of its title. No one who reads it dispassionately, but will feel that a Government that could put to death the author of such a document, for no other crime than the avowal of its opinions, was deservedly overthrown in the Revolution of 1688.
In 1724 John M'Main, M.A, schoolmaster at Liberton's Wynd, published, in an 18mo volume of 248 pages, Alexander Shields' Life of Renwick. Shields finished it in September 1688, but it had lain in manuscript till it came into M'Main's hand. M'Main has added to it a preface of forty pages, in which he takes exception to Wodrow's history for doing scant justice to the sufferers whose testimonies are given in the "Cloud." Shields' Life contains more of characteristic declamation against the tyranny of the time than narrative. Nevertheless, it is one that the reader will be grateful for, and no doubt wish that we possessed similar lives of more than one of the sufferers of that age.
In 1748 William Wilson published two 18mo volumes, with the title, "A choice Collection of very valuable Prefaces, Lectures, and Sermons, preached upon the mountains and muirs of Scotland in the hottest time of the late persecution, by that faithful minister and martyr of Jesus Christ, the Reverend Mr. James Renwick." The collection has been several times reprinted in one octavo volume. Although printed from notes, taken by hearers, that are often obviously imperfect, the collection is yet one of interest and value.
In 1764 the Reverend John M'Millan, for many years minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Congregation that met at Sandhills, near Glasgow, published a 12mo volume, entitled "A Collection of Letters, consisting of ninety-three, sixty-one of which were wrote by the Reverend Mr. James Renwick." The first letter is dated July 1682, and the last is that written to Sir Robert Hamilton on the morning of his execution. Far more than his sermons, these letters reveal the character of Renwick, and show him to have been what Alexander Shields calls him, "a ripe Christian." Mr. M'Millan printed them from the manuscript, but not very accurately, and with the omission of the postscripts, which are at least as valuable as the rest of the letters. The original autographs of Renwick's last speech and testimony, and of his letter to his Christian Friends, are in the library of the Free College, Edinburgh. Through the kindness of the acting librarian, the Reverend John Laing, we have been permitted to examine them. The examination has shown a great many obvious misprints, or mistakes in the transcription, in all previous editions of the "Cloud." These we have corrected, and given an exact copy of what Renwick wrote. The handwriting shows marks of haste or of being under some restraint, but has much of the legibility, and even beauty, so characteristic of his earlier letters, at least twenty of which we have seen in his own autograph. — ED.]
Minister of the Gospel, who suffered in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh, February 17, 1688. Emitted from his own hand, the day before his suffering.
"MY DEAR FRIENDS IN CHRIST, — It hath pleased the Lord to deliver me up into the hands of men; and I think fit to send you this salutation, which I expect will be the last. When I pose [i.e., question] my heart upon it, before God, I dare not desire to have escaped this lot; for no less could have been for His glory and vindication of His cause on my behalf. And as I am free before Him of the profanity, which some, either naughty, wicked, or strangers to me, have reported that I have been sometimes guilty of, so He hath kept me, from the womb, free of the ordinary pollutions of children; as these that have been acquainted with me through the tract of my life do know. And now my blood shall either more silence reproachers, or more ripen them for judgment. But I hope it shall make some more sparing to speak of those who shall come after me; and so I am the more willing to pay this cost, both for their instruction, and my succeeders' ease.
"Since I came to prison, the Lord hath been wonderfully kind; He hath made His word to give me light, life, joy, courage and strength; yea, it hath dropped with sweet smelling myrrh unto me; particularly these Psalms and promises:
'For now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son' (Genesis 22:12).
'Neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength' (Nehemiah 8:10)
'There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor' (Job 3:17, 18).
'But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held His steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of His lips; I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food. But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth. For He performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with Him' (Job 23:10-14).
'The word of the Lord tried Him' (Psalm 105-19).
'Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee' (Jeremiah 1:17-19).
'A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved' (Jeremiah 17:12-14).
'He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye' (Zechariah 2:8).
'But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name's sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony' (Luke 21:12, 13), and 19 of St. John's Gospel.
'Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds' (Hebrews 12:2, 3).
'Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him' (James 1:12).
'Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. Be sobers be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour' (1 Peter 5:6-8).
'I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name' (Revelation 3:8-12).
Revelation, chapters 19, 20, 21, and 22, and several other Scriptures. O what can I say to the Lord's praise! It was but little that I knew of Him before I came to prison; I have found sensibly much of His divine strength, much of the joy of His Spirit, and much assurance from His word and Spirit concerning my salvation.
"My sufferings are stated upon the matters of my doctrine, for there was found with me the sum of my two last sermons at Braid's Craigs, which I wrote after I did preach them: the former whereof was upon Psalm 96:10:
'Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.'
And in the latter upon Hebrews 10:38:
'Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.'
And I was examined upon the application made therein unto the sins of the time; all which I owned once and again, as it is to be seen in my indictment; and being tried, and an assize set, I adhered to my former confessions explicitly; so my sentence of death was drawn forth upon these three heads:
"I think such a testimony is worthy many lives, and I praise the Lord, for His enabling me to be plain and positive in all my confessions; for therein I found peace, joy, strength, boldness. I have met with many assaults in prison, some from some of the Indulged party, and some from some of the Prelatic; but by the strength of God I was enabled to stand, that they could neither bow me nor break me. I was also assaulted by some of the Popish party. I suppose they were of their ecclesiastic creatures; but they found none of their own stuff in me; I told them, after sundry debatings, that I had lived, and should die, an enemy to their way. However, some that knew me not, reproached me with Jesuitism. But I was much pressed by sundry to seek a reprieve, and my answer was always, that I adhered to my former confession, and if they pleased to let their appointed time of my death stand, let it stand; and if they pleased to protract it, let them protract it; for I was ready and willing both to live and die. Howbeit there came a reprieve for eight days, but I had no hand in it.
"They still urged, Would I but say that I desired time, for conference with some persons anent my principles? I answered, that my time was in the Lord's hand, and I was in no hesitation or doubt about my principles myself: I would not be so rude as to decline converse with any, so far as it might not be inconvenient for me in my present circumstances, but I would seek it with none.
"I have no more to say upon this head, but my heart doth not smite me for anything in the matters of my God, since I came to prison. And I can further say to His praise, with some consciousness of integrity, that I have walked in His way, and kept His charge, though with much weakness, and many infirmities, whereof you have been witnesses.
"Now, my dear friends in precious Christ, I think I need not tell you that, as I have lived, so I die, in the same persuasion with the true reformed and covenanted Presbyterian Church of Scotland. I adhere to the testimony of the day, as it is held forth in our Informatory Vindication, and in the testimony against the present toleration; and that I own, and seal with my blood, all the precious truths, even the controverted truths, that I have taught. So I would exhort every one of you to make sure your personal reconciliation with God in Christ, for I fear many of you have that yet to do; and when you come where I am, to look pale death in the face, ye will not be a little shaken and terrified if ye have not laid hold on eternal life. I would exhort you to much diligence in the use of means; to be careful in keeping your societies; to be frequent and fervent in secret prayer; to read much the written Word of God, and to examine yourselves by it.
"Do not weary to maintain, in your places and stations, the present testimony; for when Christ goeth forth to defeat antichrist, with that name written on His vesture and on His thigh, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, He will make it glorious in the earth. And if you can but transmit it to posterity, ye may count it a great generation work. But beware of the ministers that have accepted this toleration, and all others that bend that way; and follow them not, for the sun hath gone down on them. Do not fear that the Lord will cast off Scotland; for He will certainly return, and show Himself glorious in our land. But watch and pray, for He is bringing on a sad overthrowing stroke, which shall make many say that they have easily got through that have got a scaffold for Christ; and do not regard the sufferings of this present world, for they are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.
"I may say, to His praise, that I have found His cross sweet and lovely unto me; for I have had many joyful hours, and not a fearful thought since I came to prison. He hath strengthened me to outbrave man and outface death; and I am now longing for the joyful hour of my dissolution; and there is nothing in the world I am sorry to leave but you; but I go unto better company, and so I must take my leave of you all.
"Farewell beloved sufferers, and followers of the Lamb. Farewell Christian intimates. Farewell Christian and comfortable mother and sisters. Farewell sweet societies. Farewell desirable general meetings. Farewell night wanderings, cold and weariness for Christ. Farewell sweet Bible, and preaching of the Gospel. Farewell sun, moon, and stars, and all sublunary things. Farewell conflicts with a body of death. Welcome scaffold for precious Christ. Welcome heavenly Jerusalem. Welcome innumerable company of angels. Welcome General Assembly and Church of the first-born. Welcome, crown of glory, white robes, and song of Moses and the Lamb. And, above all, welcome, O thou blessed Trinity and One God! O Eternal One, I commit my soul into Thy eternal rest!
" Sic subscribitur,
"February 13, 1688."
WRITTEN IN THE TIME OF HIS REPRIEVAL.
"MY DEAR FRIENDS IN CHRIST, — I see then what hath been the language of my reprieve; it hath been, that I might be further tempted and tried; and I praise the Lord He hath assisted me to give further proof of steadfastness. I have been often assaulted by some Popish priests; but the last time that they came, I told them that I would debate no more with such as they were, and that I have lived and would die a Presbyterian Protestant, and testified against the idolatries, heresies, superstitions, and errors of their antichristian way.
"But yesterday, I was cast into a deep exercise, and made to dwell under the impression of the dreadfulness of everything that might grieve the Spirit of God. I found sin to be more bitter than death, and one hour's hiding of God's face more insupportable. And then at night I was called before a party of the Council, and the Chancellor produced the Informatory Vindication, and asked if I knew it. I answered, 'I did know it.' And being interrogated, I confessed that I had a great hand writing of it. They pressed me to tell my assistants. I told them they were those they were persecuting; but would satisfy them no further. They also urged me, upon pain of torture, to tell where were our societies, who kept our general correspondences, and where they were kept. I answered, though they should torture me, which was contrary to all law after sentence of death, I would give them no further notice than the book gave. I was, moreover, threatened to tell of my haunts and quarters, but I refused to make known any such thing to them; so I was returned to prison again. Such an exercise as I had was very needful for such a trial; and I would rather have endured what they could do unto me than have dishonored Christ, offended you, and brought you into trouble.
"But I hope, within less than three days, to be without the reach of all temptation. Now I have no more to say. Farewell again in our blessed Lord Jesus.
"February 15, 1688.
UPON THE SCAFFOLD.
Before he went out of the Tolbooth, he was at dinner with his mother, sisters, and some Christian friends, when the drum beat the first warning to his execution; which so soon as he heard, he leapt up in a ravishment of heavenly joy, saying,
"Let us be glad and rejoice, for the marriage of the Lamb is come;"
and I can say, in some measure,
"The bride, the Lamb's wife, hath made herself ready."
And, till dinner was over, he enlarged upon the parallel of a marriage, and invited all of them to come to the wedding, meaning his execution. When he was come to the scaffold, the drums being beat all the while, none of the distant spectators could hear anything that he said; only some very few, that were close by him, did hear it; whereof one has collected the following account. He delivered himself to this effect:
"Spectators, or (if there be any of you) auditors, — I must tell you I am come here this day to lay down my life for adhering to the truths of Christ, for which I am neither afraid nor ashamed to suffer; nay, I bless the Lord that ever He counted me worthy, or enabled me to suffer anything for Him; and I desire to praise His grace that He hath not only kept me free from the gross pollutions of the time, but also from many ordinary pollutions of children; and such as I have been stained with, He hath washen me from them in His own blood. I am this day to lay down my life for these three things:
"I think a testimony for these is worth many lives, and if I had ten hundred [Wodrow's Manuscript has "ten thousand." — ED.] I would think it little enough to lay them all down for the same.
"Dear friends, spectators, and (if any of you be) auditors, — I must tell you that I die a Presbyterian Protestant.
"I own the Word of God as the rule of Faith and manners; I own the Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Sum of Saving Knowledge, Directory for Worship, etc.; Covenants, National and Solemn League; Acts of General Assemblies, — and all the faithful contendings that have been for the work of reformation.
"I leave my testimony approving the preaching of the Gospel in the fields, and the defending the same by arms.
"I adjoin my testimony to all that hath been sealed by blood, shed tither on scaffolds, fields, or seas, for the cause of Christ.
"I leave my testimony against Popery, Prelacy, Erastianism, etc.; against all profanity, and everything contrary to sound doctrine; particularly against all usurpations made upon Christ's right, who is the PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH, who alone must bear the glory of ruling His own kingdom, the Church; and, in particular, against the absolute power usurped by this usurper, that belongs to no mortal, but is the incommunicable prerogative of JEHOVAH, and against this toleration flowing from that absolute power."
Upon this, he was bid have done. He answered,
"I have near done."
Then he said:
"Ye that are the people of God, do not weary in maintaining the testimony of the day, in your stations and places; and whatever ye do, make sure an interest in Christ, for there is a storm coming that shall try your foundation. Scotland must be rid of Scotland before the delivery come. And you that are strangers to God, break off your sins by repentance, else I will be a witness against you in the day of the Lord."
Here they caused him desist. Upon the scaffold he sung a part of the 103d Psalm, from the beginning, and read the 19th chapter of the Revelation.
[In prayer he said,
"Lord, I die in the faith that Thou wilt not leave Scotland, but that Thou wilt make the blood of Thy witnesses the seed of Thy Church, and return again, and be glorious in our land. And now, Lord, I am ready — 'the bride, the Lamb's wife, hath made herself ready.'"
The napkin then being tied about his face, he said to his friend attending him —
"Farewell. Be diligent in duty. Make your peace with God, through Christ. There is a great trial coming. As to the remnant I leave, I have committed them to God. Tell them from me not to weary, nor be discouraged in maintaining the testimony. Let them not quit nor forego one of these despised truths. Keep your ground, and the Lord will provide you teachers and ministers, and when He comes, He will make these despised truths glorious upon the earth.
Then he was turned over the ladder, with these words in his mouth:
"Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit, for Thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of truth."
— From Alex. Shields' "Life of Renwick." — ED.]
And having thus finished his course, served his generation, and witnessed a good confession for his Lord and Master, before many witnesses, by the will of God, he yielded up his spirit into the hands of God who gave it.
He was the last that sealed the testimony of this suffering period in a public way upon a scaffold.