"We will hear all ministers, whether in houses or fields, who will preach according to the Word of God, our Covenants, Confession of Faith, and Catechisms, Larger and Shorter, that will embrace this, our call."
The call was presented to as many as could be found, and was declined by every one. These that declined their call were the ministers who, twenty years previous, had been expelled from their churches, because they would not abandon their Covenant and submit to the king. And these were the people who had followed them into the wilderness, gathered about them in great Conventicles, enjoyed wonderful Communions under their ministry, and adventured their lives in their defence. Now the flock was forsaken; the shepherds had fled.
These people, however, were not to be despised. They were numerous; a few years later, upon an emergency, they mustered a regiment for their country's defence without the beat of a drum, and announced that another regiment or two would follow if needed. They were courageous; they gave a most aggressive testimony at Lanark against the king and the defections of the times. They were intelligent; they ably defended their principles and position both in speech and in print. They were consecrated; they made their appeal always to God, to the Covenant, to conscience, and to the enlightened judgment of Christendom.
The General Meeting resolved, in 1682, to educate four young men for the ministry, among whom was James Renwick. These were sent to college. Renwick was ordained in 1684.
Each society endeavored to hold a meeting every Sabbath for Divine worship. This went far to supply the spiritual nourishment which the ministers had failed to give. The "Society" is a sweet memory, lingering still in the hearts of some of our aged people. There are Covenanters who can yet recall the old-fashioned prayer meeting, then known as the Society which descended from the times of persecution They can remember how half a dozen families, sometimes more, sometimes less, came quietly together on Sabbath morning to one of their homes. The atmosphere, within and without, was pervaded with holy awe. A quiet joy, subdued with gravity, beamed in all faces. The largest room in the house was crowded with men, women, and children; the chairs were supplemented with boards, cushioned with quilts, for seats. At 11 a.m. the worship of God began.
Order of exercises:
A Psalm announced, a blessing invoked singing the Psalm, reading a chapter, and prayer by the leader.
Bible verse announced, statement of doctrine and remarks.
A second Psalm, chapter, and prayer.
Reading in the Confession of Faith or in a sermon.
A third Psalm, chapter, and prayer.
The children reciting Psalms and Questions.
The Shorter Catechism recited by the whole house.
A fourth Psalm, followed with a short prayer.
Adjournment at 3 p.m.
These societies were the deep roots of the Covenanted Church. By means of them, she became thoroughly indoctrinated in the Word of God and His holy Covenant. In these meetings the elders became like ministers in the knowledge of Christ, and the people like elders. The feeble in Israel waxed strong as the house of David, and the house of David as the angel of the Lord. There were giants in those days.
The Covenanted Church must revive the society spirit and exercises, if she would recover her vitality; she must resume these spiritual athletics if she would feel the glow of healthy vigor. These roots have suffered decay; therefore the trees are easily upturned. When Social worship of God characterizes the Church, the people will take on strength and be able to stand amidst the spiritual landslides and general defection that characterizes the times in which we live.
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. How did the Covenanted Societies survive the general defection?
2. How did they succeed when they had no ministers?
3. What separated them from others in worship?
4. What caused them the greatest grief?
5. How did they entreat the ministers to come to them?
6. On what terms would they have received the minister?
7. How were the societies unified?
8. How did the General Meeting provide a ministry?
9. Give a description of an old-time prayer-meeting.
10. Why should these exercises be revived?
THE DAUGHTERS OF THE COVENANT.
The persecution of the Covenanters brought into display the rarest virtues and highest qualities of womanhood. Many women chose to give up their happy homes, and wander in solitudes, dwell in caves, suffer in prisons, hear the death sentence, and go to the gallows, rather than violate their Covenant with God. They cheerfully accepted their full share of service and sacrifice in Scotland's struggle for civil and religious liberty. They faced the terrors of that conflict with a noble spirit; they were man's worthy helpers in those trying times. Thousands of incidents of feminine heroism might be cited; we have room for merely a few.
The Covenanter's marriage, in those days, was both serious and romantic. The bride always loves to open her eyes upon rosy prospects, but persecution in that generation shattered the beautiful dream. Her future was then like a landscape, over which storm followed storm, with only alternate blinks of sunlight. Husband and wife were in jeopardy every hour; to-morrow the wedding gown might be the winding sheet. When John Knox found the woman of his choice, he said, "My bird, are you willing to marry me?" She replied, "Yes, Sir." Then tenderly and firmly he added, "My bird, if you marry me, you must take your venture of God's providence, as I do. I go through the country on foot, with a wallet on my arm, and in it a Bible, a shirt, and a clean band; you also may put some things in for yourself; and you must go where I go, and lodge where I lodge." "I'll do all this," she blithely answered. They lived long, and were happy in the bonds of that blessed wedlock. Once as they journeyed across the county she took the hand-baggage, and hastening ahead sat on the hilltop awaiting his coming. As he came up she humorously said, "Am not I as good as my word?"
The women often showed fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Covenant that amazed the persecutors. They scorned the suggestion of relief for themselves or their families that would compromise the truth of Christ. John Welch, of Ayr, lay in prison fifteen months because his preaching did not please the king. The dungeon in which he was confined is yet pointed out in Blackness Castle, a dark, dismal, pestilential vault. A recent traveler said that he had gotten enough of its horrors in five minutes to do him. But poor Welch had to abide there "five quarters of ane yier." Mrs. Welch visited the king in person to plead for his release. "Yes," said the king, "if he will submit to the bishops." "Please Your Majesty," said Mrs. Welch, holding up the corners of her apron, "I'd rather kep his head here." The faithful wife was willing to witness her husband's execution, rather than have him betray the cause of Christ or break his Covenant with God.
Many a martyr got his inspiration for duty from God, through his noble wife. When James Guthrie came to a difficult task, he seemed to hesitate. Great interests were involved. May he not modify a certain ministerial action so as to save his life, provide for his family, and continue to shepherd his flock? Who would not pause in presence of such a serious consideration? His wife, observing his perplexity, came into his presence with a cheery countenance and an assuring voice, saying, "My heart, what the Lord gives you light and clearness to do, that do." The light carried him into the service; the conscience was set free from the temporary disturbance; yet the decision brought him to the scaffold; it placed upon his brow the martyr's crown. The worthy wife sadly went into widowhood, and the children into orphanage, through that strong, womanly spirit which could brook no deviation from duty.
The women frequently were placed in embarrassing positions. In marriage they were not always equally yoked. When the husband was a persecutor, faithfulness in the house and fidelity to Jesus required the highest wisdom on the part of the wife. Lady Anne Rothes occupied such a home. Both she and her husband were born Covenanters. The Covenant principles were bred in the bone, instilled into the thoughts, and impressed on the conscience, at the parental fireside, at the family altar, in the house of God, and at the Table of the Lord, while they were under the care of their parents; but the young man forsook his father's God, dishonored the Covenant, and cast off religion. He became a profligate and persecutor. The woman, through the abundant grace of God, remained true to the Covenant. Her position, however, involved her in many a dilemma. The wedlock that promised to be a blessed union proved to be a galling yoke. The husband was placed in power by the king, and granted the title of duke. On one occasion, when entertaining Archbishop Sharp, the two grew merry over their plan to put certain Covenanters to death. The tender-hearted woman, sitting with them at the table, was greatly distressed, yet she wisely concealed her feelings. Having the information, however, she was able to send out timely warning to the Covenanters. In this way she saved their lives, not once, nor twice. Rothes, too, in his better moments, assisted her in protecting the persecuted. When about to send his soldiers to apprehend the Covenanters, at times he would say to her with a twinkle in his eye, "My lady, the hawks will be out to-night, so you had better take care of your chickens."
The women of the Covenant were compelled to pass through many painful scenes. Often their hearts were heavily burdened, yet they were mightily sustained by the Holy Spirit. Captain John Paton, after a wonderful record on the battlefield in defence of the Covenant, won his last fight on the scaffold. He went joyfully to his death, glorying in victory through his Lord Jesus Christ. As he stood on the platform from which he would soon step into eternity, he held forth his well-worn Bible, from which he addressed the crowd that stood around the gallows. Then bidding farewell to earth, and welcome to heaven, he commended his wife and their six children to the care of his Covenant God. At that moment, the sorrow-stricken woman, reaching up her trembling hand, received from him his Bible with a blessing—a double token of her husband's deathless love. Then in the twinkling of an eye, she saw his body twirling in the death struggle, while his soul entered into glory. That Bible is still preserved at Lochgoin.
The horrors which women deliberately faced, in their devotion to Christ and His servants, seem almost incredible. How great the love of woman whose heart God's love has filled! How deep, how tranquil, how inexhaustible, how majestic, how like the love of Jesus is the love of that woman whose heart rests in her Covenant God! It is measured in part by the stupendous tasks she accepts and the crucial emergencies she endures for the sake of others. When Robert Baillie, burdened with years and weakened with disease, lay in prison waiting for his sentence, his wife was ill and unable to visit him. But the angelic heart of her sister, Lady Graden, then found its opportunity. The authorities would permit her to visit the dying man, only on her consent to become a prisoner with him. She agreed to the conditions, and entered the dark sickly cell. His pale face was quickly lighted up with her presence, and the Word of God, which she read to him in the dim candle-light. Night and day she watched over him with sympathetic interest. At length he was brought out for trial, and sentenced to die. She accompanied him to the gallows, stood by him when swung off; saw him cut down, watched while his body was quartered and prepared for shipment, to be placed on exhibition in four cities. And when the service of love was fully finished, and neither hand, nor tongue, nor eye could do anything further, she went home to console her sick sister.
And what shall we say more of Isabel Alison, Marion Harvie, Margaret Dun, Barbara Cunningham, Janet Livingston, Anne Hamilton, Margaret Colville, Marion Veitch, and the long list of worthy women, which the pen of man will never complete?
The Covenanted Church is largely dependent on the women for spirit, courage, fidelity, and activity in the service of Christ. The grace of God, abounding in the women, will cause the Church to arise and do valiant work. When mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters beam with devotion to Christ and His Covenant; when their voice is resonant with holy courage in the Lord's cause; when their lives are sublime with deeds of heroic faith; then will the Church become "beautiful as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners." Jesus said unto her, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. In what spirit did the women endure the persecution?
2. Give an incident in courtship.
3. Describe the loyalty of Mrs. Welch, both to her husband and to the Covenant.
4. Relate Mrs. Guthrie's spirited advice to her husband.
5. Tell about Mrs. Paton.
6. What were some of the difficulties faced by Lady Rothes?
7. Describe the service of devotion by Lady Graden to Robert Baillie.
8. How is the Church dependent on woman, for spirited and successful work?
YOUNG LIFE UNDER PERSECUTION.
When the shepherd is smitten, the sheep will be scattered. When the father is persecuted, the family will suffer, the mother and children cannot escape. The fire that enfolds the oak with a sheet of flame will not pause at the more beautiful maple or the flowering shrubs.
God's Covenant with the fathers included mothers, sons, and daughters. It also embraced future generations. "The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." The Covenant of our fathers was their acceptance of God's promise on His own terms. The terms were these: unswerving fidelity to His truth, and steadfastness in His service. They who were true in spirit, honest at heart, firm in purpose, and consistent in life, were able to enter into the deep, broad, marvelous meaning of the Covenant. The secret of the Lord was with them. The Holy Spirit came upon them with power, shed light, gave strength, ministered comfort, inspired hope, produced courage, wrought wonders. In their presence the wilderness blossomed as the rose; gardens sprang up in the solitary places; the apple tree bore fruit in the woods. The Lord Jesus Christ was with them in the rich abundance and wonderful variety of His grace; they dwelt in the heavenly places; glory covered the ground whereon they trod.
The children of the Covenanters, being included in the Covenant, suffered with their parents in the persecution, and received also the recompense of reward. A few of these lovely lives may be mentioned, but the fascinating story of thousands will never be told. The few, however, will suggest the many. We look at a bunch of violets, then think of the acres of delicate beauty bathing in the warm sunbeams and fluttering in the soft winds.
The young Covenanters in those days confronted severest conditions and learned hardest lessons in discipleship. Sometimes they had to forsake father and mother to prove themselves worthy of Christ. Andrew Forsyth, verging on manhood, was required to drink this bitter cup. The family had not yet espoused the Covenanted cause. One day Andrew was entrusted with a flock of sheep for the market. He was over night on the way. As he lay that night guarding his sheep in the field, he heard solemn music. Following the sound, he came to a moss-hag, where a group of Covenanters were worshiping God. A moss-hag is a cut on the hillside, formed by frost and rain; and overhung with moss, heather, and other growths. In such places the pursued Covenanters often hid themselves. The cold grotto was their house; the damp earth their bed; the hole cut out of the hill without hands their sanctuary. Andrew listened with breathless interest. They were singing a Psalm of David. Then followed an earnest prayer. Tie could not endure the suspense, but revealed himself to the little company. They received him gladly, and spent hours talking of Christ, His precious blood, His amazing love, His royal glory, and His unrivalled supremacy. Andrew was a Covenanter when he went home. His father was angry, his mother was sorry, and he had to leave. In a distant moor he made himself a bed under a booth of heather and moss, and supported himself by working for the neighboring shepherds. The dragoons heard of his affiliation with the Covenanters, and were quickly on his path; his life was ever in danger. One day they fired on him, but he escaped and reached his mossy den, carrying a bullet wound received from their fire. There he lay several days, suffering, bleeding, hungry, lonely, and helpless, yet full of peace and joy in the Lord. Often did he think of his father's house, and his mother's love; of the gentle hands that had in other days smoothed his bed and made his bread; yet his heart bloomed with thoughts of the love of Jesus Christ and His sweet promises. His religion had cost much, but he never regretted the bargain by which he had lost the world and gained his soul. At length a shepherd found him, and kindly ministered to his wants. This good boy lived to be an old man, whose grey hair was a crown of glory.
The young people often manifested presence of mind equal to those of riper years. Bessie Willison was one of those brilliant characters. Once she heard of a Field-meeting to be held under trying circumstances and resolved to attend it. It was winter; the ground was covered with snow; the place was distant and difficult to reach; the weather was rough; the journey was perilous; dragoons might be met at any turn of the road. What girl would brave such hardships for a day's preaching? Bessie arrayed herself in her winter wraps, and started early in the morning. She was willing to endure hardness for the Lord's sake. She could face the driven snow, or sit on an icy stone, or laugh at the blasts that reddened her cheeks, in order to hear the Word preached by a true servant of God. She walked alone; yet not alone, for her heart burned within her while the Lord talked with her by the way. As the road led around a hill, she suddenly came upon a troop of dragoons. They drew up their horses, soldier-like, and spoke rudely to her; she replied with much dignity. They persisted in their vile language, taunting her and railing on the Covenanters. But even with their horses, guns, swords, and rough speeches, they were unable to daunt the lonely girl. Conscious of purity, and flaming with indignation, her eyes flashing into their faces, she administered a reproof that cut like a lancet. They shrank and made room for her to pass on without further molestation. What inspiration would come to the Field-meeting from the presence of a Covenanter like that! The Lord was with her, and therefore she brought joy and strength to others.
The little children, too, had their difficult places in Scotland's hard fight for liberty. The persecution still increased in violence. At length when for any reason a town had fallen under the king's displeasure, all the inhabitants were subject to punishment. On one occasion, the people had been warned of the coming of dragoons. The parents, not being able to take their children with them, and hoping the "bairns" would find pity, left them and fled to a hiding-place. The children were sharply interrogated by the soldiers concerning their parents, but gave no satisfaction. They were then led to a field and placed in front of the soldiers. This greatly terrified them, but they would reveal nothing. The officer commanded his men to take aim. Up went the guns; the sight was dreadful for children; yet they would give no information. "Lead us to the hiding-place, or you will be shot," cried the officer. There were sobs, tears, and trembling, but no response.
"Will it hurt much, Janet?" said a little boy, as he clasped the hand of his sister.
"I dinna ken, Willie," replied the sister tenderly, "but I'm sure it will na last lang."
"Fire!" shouted the officer. The terrible volley flashed from every gun. Some of the children dropped, thinking they had been shot. The soldiers had been told to shoot over their heads to frighten and not kill. The officer, outmatched by the brave children, and we hope heartily ashamed of himself, led his men away. As they rode off, the children sang:
"The Lord's my shepherd; I'll not want; He makes me down to lie In pastures green; He leadeth me The quiet waters by."
Their sweet voices mingled with the dying clatter of the horses' hoofs.
The young bridegroom and his bride were also involved in hardships that tried their souls. The soldiers that raided the country had equal disregard for old age, youth, and infancy. The mother, whether surrounded by a houseful of children, or clasping her first infant on her bosom, found no pity. One morning the dragoons surrounded the house of a happy couple, John and Sarah Gibson. They had come to seize both, whether to kill or imprison was not yet determined. John was absent; Sarah, seeing the troopers gallop toward the house, poured a prayer over her babe, as it lay asleep in the crib, and fled in terror, hoping that sweet infancy would appeal to their hearts. A ruffian rushed in, and grasping the babe, shouted, "The nurse is not far away." He made it scream, to bring the mother back. She heard its pitiful cry; her heart was breaking, yet she was utterly powerless. She might expose herself, but she could not help the infant. They carried it away. She was almost insane with grief. The soldiers, going back from the house, met the father, but he was not identified. They, being bewildered on the moor, compelled him to be their guide. He saw the child, but did not recognize it as his own. The officer, ashamed of the cruel deed, ordered the man who had carried off the babe to take it back to the house. He galloped off and laid it again in the crib. The mother quickly clasped it to her bosom. That night the father returned. Telling of his adventures, he mentioned the babe he had seen with the soldiers. The mother, bursting into tears, arose and laying the infant in his arms said, "This is the babe you saw."
The young people are the hope of the Church. The congregation whose young people are loyal to Christ and true to the Covenant is greatly blessed of God. The Covenant embraces children, claims their allegiance, calls for their service, honors them with responsibilities, and lays at their feet the privileges and beatitudes of the kingdom of heaven.
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. Does the Covenant of the fathers include posterity?
2. How did the children suffer in the persecution?
3. Describe the case of Andrew Forsyth.
4. How did Bessie Willison meet her trials?
5. Tell about the little children of a persecuted town.
6. Describe the cruelty done to the babe of Mr. and Mrs. Gibson.
7. What may the Church expect, when her young people are true?
THE COVENANTERS' BIBLE.
The Covenanters dearly loved the Bible. They esteemed it very highly for the sake of God, its Author. They believed in its inspiration, genuineness, infallibility, majesty, and power. The Bible inspired? Yes, the Covenanters had no troublesome thoughts on that question. The Holy Spirit, in their estimation, was the source of that Book; the contents were all His own. He produced every sentence, formed every clause, chose every word found in the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, and filled all brimful and overflowing with God's own meaning. He did all this through the men who were employed as the inspired writers. The Covenanters believed in the verbal and plenary inspiration of the Bible.
They discovered also a second inspiration. The Holy Spirit inspires the devout reader. He opens the heart to receive the Scriptures, and He opens the Scriptures to yield their meaning. Then, and only then, the Bible appears in its true greatness. Then is it the effective voice of God, tender as the sob of a babe, and majestic as thunder; it then is the temple of living truth, filled with the glory of the Lord's presence; it then is the revelation of the eternal world, showing the beauty of holiness, the mystery of the cross, the conquest of death, the horrors of sin, the doom of the lost, the joy of the saved. Oh, what a Book the Bible is to the inspired reader! It becomes transparent. The light of the face of Jesus flashes from the lines and between the lines, through the words and amidst the letters, turning the page into heaven's bright scenery, and the chapters into the unveiling of the wonders of redemption. Such was the Book of God to the Covenanters, as they passed through the fires of persecution.
The homeless Covenanters, wandering from place to place, carried the Bible with them. It was their faithful guide and constant companion. When they were hungry, it was their food; when thirsty, it was their drink; when forsaken, it was their friend; when wounded, it was their balm; when pursued, it was their refuge; when condemned, it was their advocate; when executed, it was their welcome into heaven. When they retired to the darksome caves, its promises made the dripping stones shine; when they sought shelter in the mountains, the music of the Psalms cheered their hearts; when their blood bedewed the moss, the loud cry on Calvary sanctified their pain; when they sat on the Bass Rock begirt with waves and swept by storms, the visions, creations, and tumultuous grandeurs of Patmos were reproduced in the spiritual experience of these illuminated sufferers, by means of the Word of God. To these devout Covenanters, the blessed Book yielded up its wealth, breathed its deepest love, revealed its hidden glory. In their spiritual visions, the desert blossomed at their feet, gardens flourished around them, harvests ripened for their sickle; summer drove back the dreary winter; they verily dwelt in Immanuel's land.
The Covenanters loved the Bible more than their lives. In it they found eternal life, and counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ. Many instances are on record, showing their willingness to die, rather than abandon, or conceal, the Book of God. One man, M'Roy by name, was shot on the spot, because he was found reading his Bible. It was Sabbath, a sweet summer day. That morning he drove his cows to pasture, carrying the sacred Book with him. The field is a beautiful place for personal devotions. Here the soul can luxuriate in prayer and meditation, holding fellowship with heaven. A solemn stillness had fallen upon the broad landscape; nothing was heard but the notes of the plover, the bleating of the lambs, and the grazing of the cows. M'Roy sat down on the soft grass, and opened the Book of God. He was then in his element; he delighted in the law of the Lord. The sun poured down its blessings upon the fields, and a light much brighter spread around his soul; the fragrant air fanned his brow, and sweeter aroma from the "mountain or myrrh" refreshed his spirit. His heart was beating fast with the joys that were crowding into his inner life. He was preparing, though he knew it not, for a crisis. Suddenly and rudely the spiritual reverie was interrupted. Captain Lagg, with a company of horsemen, was dashing across that field, when their eyes fell upon the lonely herdsman. They galloped to the spot where he sat in solemn composure.
"What book is that you are reading?" Lagg gruffly asked.
"It is the Bible, Sir," meekly replied M'Roy, looking up into the face of the rough soldier, who held his weapon ready for action. The confession sealed his death.
"Your cows must find another herdsman," sternly returned Lagg, who immediately delivered the fatal shot. The bleeding body struggled a moment on the heath, then the ransomed spirit took its flight to brighter realms.
The Bible won the young, as well as the more matured. It warmed, strengthened, purified, and ennobled the hearts of sons and daughters, affording comfort and arousing heroism equal to that of fathers and mothers. Andrew Hislop, while yet a youth, was overtaken as he hastened to a hiding-place, and was put on trial for his life, while he stood before the soldiers in the field across which he was running. His Bible was found on his person. His mother's home had been demolished by Claverhouse some time previous; she and her children had been compelled to face the future without food or shelter. She had been charged with harboring Covenanters; therefore her residence had been destroyed, her provisions seized, and her children scattered; all were now being hunted for their lives. Claverhouse had found Andrew. He was allowed a short time for prayer. His prayer brought the needed blessing with more than lightning-speed; sufficient grace and strength were immediately given. His face shined with courage; his eyes gleamed with contempt for danger and death; a halo of victory seemed to wreathe him; the Holy Spirit filled his soul with joy; his lips took up the Psalmist's inspired challenge, and the solemn music smote the ears of his foes, as he sang—
"The mighty Lord is on my side, I will not be afraid; For any thing that man can do I shall not be dismayed."
The dragoons were unable to endure the glory of that face, or the sweetness of that voice. He was ordered to draw down his "bonnet" over his eyes, and receive the volley. He sternly refused, lifting it higher on his dauntless brow, and affirming that he could look the musketeers in the face, while they delivered the murderous fire. Then holding out his Bible, he haled them to the Judgment-seat, where they would be judged by that Book.
"Shoot," cried Claverhouse. Not a gun was discharged. The men were overawed by the sweet innocency and intrepid spirit of the youthful Covenanter.
"Shoot that bonnie young man!" exclaimed the officer, who had charge of the men appointed to do the bloody work. "I'll fight Clavers and a' his men first." Three others were found sufficiently hardened to do the cruel deed. The young hero fell, and expired. As the horsemen rode away, the stricken mother hastened to the spot. The young heart had ceased to beat; the eyes opened no more upon her kindly face. Sadly she gathered up the oozing brains, for which she had brought a clean napkin, knowing too well what had occurred; she then prepared the body for burial.
The Covenanters endeavored to keep the Bible ever close at hand. It was the open book in the house the desk-book in the shop, the pocket-book in the field, the guide-book on the road. When they had a breathing spell at their work, they inhaled its fragrance, fed upon its manna, drank from its wells of salvation, plucked the ripe fruit of its orchards. A glance at its sacred pages, now and then through the day, supplied strength, wisdom, comfort, and courage so much needed. But this pious habit imperiled life. Arthur Inglis one day, while resting his team at the plow, sat down on the furrow, with his open Bible. He was suddenly sighted by the wary dragoons, who were scouting the country. They spurred their steeds, and were quickly drawn up around their victim. The fact that he was reading the Bible was sufficient to convince them that he was worthy to die. Neither judge nor jury was necessary for conviction. He received the deadly volley and fell, expiring in the furrow where he sat.
The Bible, how we should prize it! Our fathers, when they opened the Book of God, knew not but ere they closed it their blood would stain the page upon which the eyes were feasting; yet they relished it more than their necessary food. How will our delight in the Word of God compare with theirs?
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. How did the Covenanters esteem the Bible?
2. What kind of inspiration did they ascribe to the Bible?
3. What second inspiration needed to understand it?
4. What was the Bible to these sufferers?
5. Describe their devotion to the Word of God; the experience of McRoy; Andrew Hislop; Arthur Inglis.
6. How ought we to esteem the Bible?
THE SCOTTISH SEER.—A.D. 1685.
Alexander Peden was a burning and a shining light in the dark night of Scotland's persecution. His career in the ministry of the Gospel glowed with mysterious splendor. His natural powers flashed with supernatural glints, or rather, with excessive spiritual light, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. God, through persecution, made many mighty men.
Peden was born in 1626, when King Charles was trying hard to stamp out Presbyterianism. He was twelve years old, when the Covenant renewed at Greyfriars' Church thrilled the kingdom. He was twenty-four when Charles II. took the throne, and wrought havoc with the Reformation. When thirty-six, he was driven from his church at Glenluce by the wrath of the king. When forty-eight, he was banished to the Bass Rock, where he rested, like an eagle on its aerie, his soul betimes soaring above all clouds, and calmly viewing the ransomed in presence of the eternal Throne. At sixty, he gave death a royal welcome, uttering predictions, bestowing blessings, and giving signs, like one of the prophets of old. Thus his singular life fell into periods of twelves, each arising above the other, like mountain upon mountain, in ruggedness and majesty, until his noble spirit took its flight from the scenes of earth.
A great distress befell him on the day appointed for his licensure. A serious charge was preferred against him, affecting his moral character. His licensure, therefore, was deferred. Greatly humiliated, he withdrew to a solitary place, and spent twenty-four hours in prayer. He was all night alone with the Angel of the Covenant, and wrestled till he got the blessing. A prayer lasting twenty-four hours, poured forth from the heart, will work wonders. He has not told us how he sat by the murmuring waters, pouring out his complaint; nor how that day was to him like night, and the night like outer darkness; nor how he mingled his sighs with the moaning of the winds, and his tears with the drops of the night; but he has told how that the Lord answered him. Returning to the house he said, "Give me meat and drink, for I have gotten what I was seeking; I will be vindicated." His innocency was soon made clear by the criminal making a public confession of guilt.
Peden was called to the church of Glenluce, where he remained as pastor three years. His preaching was earnest, pointed, and powerful. He was greatly beloved by his flock, and the work of the Lord prospered in his hand. But his ministry in that field was violently interrupted by the vengeance of King Charles, which fell upon the Church in 1662, driving 400 ministers from their parishes. Peden possessed a militant spirit, and ignored the day set by royal authority for the arbitrary vacation. He boldly continued overtime. At length the strain was so great that he had to go. His farewell sermon was preached from Acts 20:31: "Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." The text was peculiarly appropriate to the occasion. The house was crowded; tumultuous emotions surged through the audience; the anguish found vent in weeping, wailing, and loud lamentations. The sermon was frequently interrupted with the grief. The service continued until night. He never again preached in that pulpit.
The gift of prophecy distinguished Peden in a striking manner, giving him a unique place in history. He spoke with accuracy of many events, without information other than that received directly from God. But this will astonish no one who is acquainted with man's power in prayer. Prayer was the secret of Peden's prescience. God proceeds on established principles, in His dealings with His people. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." "And the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" Peden's prayers on certain occasions lasted all night. Communion with God was his delight; he lived in the presence of the Almighty; his hiding-place was in the brightness of the light shining from the face of Jesus Christ. His heart was burdened with the interests of Christ's kingdom. Therefore God gave him eyes to see much that was hidden from others.
He was sixty miles away when the Covenanters fell on the field of Rullion Green. News then traveled no faster than a horse. That evening he was sad. A friend inquired the cause. He replied, "To-morrow I shall tell you." That night he retired to his room, but went not to bed; he spent the hours in prayer. Next morning he said, "Our friends, that were in arms for Christ's interest, are now broken, killed, taken, and fled, every man."
He was forty miles away on the dismal Sabbath, when the Covenanters were slaughtered at Bothwell Bridge. He had an engagement to preach. The people assembled in a solitary place for the service. They were hungry for the Word of God, but Peden did not appear. At noon they sent to know the cause. He replied, "Let the people go to their prayers; I neither can, nor will preach this day, for our friends are fallen and fleed before the enemy; they are hagging and hacking them down, and their blood is running like water."
One day while preaching, he arose in a flight of inspiration, exclaiming, "I must tell you, in the name of the Lord, who sent me unto you this day, to tell you these things, that ere it be very long, the living shall not be able to bury the dead in thee, O Scotland; and many a mile shall ye walk, or ride, and shall not see a farm-house, but ruinous wastes, for the quarrel of a broken Covenant and wrongs done to the Son of God."
This servant of God had profound knowledge of Bible doctrines. He had a masterly conception of the crown rights of Jesus Christ, and the fundamental principles of His kingdom. He had vivid views of the excellence of holiness, and the atrocity of sin. This filled him, like the Psalmist, with horror at the doom of transgressors. His inner life was fiercely swept with the contrary passions of love for righteousness, and hatred for iniquity. His soul was the scene of terrific conflicts. His preaching and praying against the powers of darkness often revealed an internal tragedy. One night while preaching to the Covenanters who had assembled in a sheep-house, he cried out, "Black, black, black will be the day, that shall come upon Ireland; they shall travel forty miles, and not see a reeking house, or hear a crowing cock." Then, clapping his hands with dramatic effect, he exclaimed: "Glory, glory to the Lord, that He has accepted a bloody sacrifice of a sealed testimony off Scotland's hand."
Peden could not brook any departure from Christ and His Covenant. Covenant-breaking was, in his eyes, a most aggravated sin. He was quick to see the Lord coming to avenge the quarrel of His Covenant, and his soul was filled with dread.
Here are some of his utterances:
"Oh, my heart trembles within me, to think what is coming on the backsliding, soul-murdering ministers of Scotland!
"He is not worth his room, that prays not half his time, to see if he can prevent the dreadful wrath, that is coming on our poor motherland.
"Thirty-six years ago our Lord had a numerous train of ministers in Scotland, but one blast blew six hundred of them away, and they never returned.
"I shall tell you the right way of covenanting with God; it is when Christ and believers meet; and our Lord gives them His laws, statutes, and commandments; and charges them not to quit a hoof of them; no, though they should be torn into a thousand pieces. And the right Covenanter says, Amen."
Peden never married. During twenty-four years of wanderings, his life was pathetically lonely. When death was approaching, he returned to the old home, to spend his last days amid the scenes of his childhood. His brother still dwelt there. He received a cordial welcome, though his presence imperiled the family; for the dragoons were still pursuing him. To that true and tender soul, how beautiful must have been the green fields, the rippling brooks, and the familiar hills, where he had roamed when a child! They made him a cave on the hillside; a bush covered its entrance. There he was hidden from the enemy, and there he lay in his last illness, and ripened for heaven.
When near his end he predicted, that, bury him where they would, the enemy would lift his body. Forty days after his burial, the spiteful foe raised his body, and buried it among the graves of criminals. Thus they attempted to disgrace this servant of Jesus Christ. But in later years his memory was so dearly cherished, that many good people requested to be interred beside him, and the grounds around that grave in time became a beautiful cemetery.
Communion with God is the secret of power, and of spiritual vision; and faithfulness in God's Covenant is the secret of Divine communion. The possibility of living in holy familiarity with God the Father, and with our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit, learning the thoughts of God, feeling the thrill of His power, viewing His far-reaching plans, and co-operating in His glorious work—is this only a fascinating dream? Nay, the Covenanters of the martyr-spirit found it to be a realization. Do their children strive after the same attainment?
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. What gift specially distinguished Peden?
2. What distress did he meet at his licensure?
3. How did he overcome it?
4. Where was his first pastorate?
5. Why did he leave Glenluce?
6. What remarkable prophecies did he utter?
7. Repeat some of his sayings.
8. What occurred to his body after burial?
9. How may we attain to a similar familiarity with God?
SCOTLAND'S MAIDEN MARTYR.—A.D. 1685.
King Charles II. died February 6, 1685. Few tears were shed, many hearts were glad, at his departure. He was called the "Merry Monarch," in allusion to his frivolous spirit and gross dissipation. "Wherever you see his portrait, you may fancy him in his court at Whitehall, surrounded by some of the worst vagabonds in the kingdom, drinking, gambling, indulging in vicious conversation, and committing every kind of profligate excess."
Charles left behind him a gory path. Pools of blood, precious blood, the blood of the saints, marked it all the way through the twenty-five years of his reign. Where did that horrible path lead? We shudder at the answer; we draw a veil over the scene; we are careful not to speak our thoughts. But the strong-hearted martyrs followed the vision to the end. "Would you know what the devil is doing in hell?" exclaimed John Semple, one of the Covenanted ministers. "He is going with a long rod in his hand, crying, Make way, make room, for the king is coming; and the other persecutors are posting hither." How like the scathing irony of Isaiah, in describing the death of the king of Babylon! "Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming." An ovation in the lower world! What horrid mockery there awaits the chieftains of crime!
A curious coincidence occurred at this time. Alexander Peden, on a certain night, was conducting family worship. He was hundreds of miles distant from the king. While reading from the Bible, he suddenly stopped, and exclaimed, "What's this I hear?" He uttered the strange words three times. Then after a brief pause, he clapped his hands and said, "I hear a dead shot at the throne of Britain. Let him go; he has been a black sight to these lands, especially to poor Scotland. We're well quit of him." That same night the king fell in a fit of apoplexy, or as some say, by a dose of poison, and died within five days. His brother, the Duke of York, succeeded him on the throne.
James VII, the new king, inherited Charles' work of slaughter, and continued it with revolting savagery. He, too, was infatuated with the thought of being supreme over the Church, and became infuriated with the purpose of overthrowing Presbyterianism, and suppressing the Covenanters, now called "The Cameronians." Had he paused to consider, surely he would have hesitated to follow the man, who had gone to meet his Judge, to answer for the blood that was crying against him for vengeance. We tremble at the thought of the naked soul facing the accusations of the slain, and receiving righteous retribution for its cruel deeds. How great the infatuation of the successor, who determined to follow the same path!
Among those who suffered under king James, the family of Gilbert Wilson is worthy of special notice. Neither Gilbert, nor his wife, had espoused the Covenanters' cause; but they had three children who claimed the enviable distinction; Margaret, aged eighteen years, Thomas, sixteen, and Agnes, thirteen. These children had been deeply moved by the stories of bloodshed, that were then recited, night by night at many a fireside. Their sympathy with the persecuted was aroused unwittingly, and they absorbed the principles of the Covenant; somehow, and it could not be explained, they became Covenanters, and that of the noblest type. Their parents were shocked, for their property, and freedom, and even their lives were involved. The children were required to abandon the Covenant, or quit their home. They chose the latter, sad and terrible as it was. These young hearts had grasped one of the highest and hardest truths in the religion of Jesus Christ—"He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me."
One day they walked slowly and sadly away from their beloved parents, and their pleasant home. From a distance they cast a farewell glance upon the scenes of their childhood, then quickened their pace to reach the solitudes and escape the soldiers. The dragoons came to the house, but missed their prey. They were very angry, and enjoined the parents, under a heavy penalty, to refuse their children food and shelter; yea, all human kindness. The children pursued their way, not knowing whither they were going. The desolate moors, the dreary mountains, the damp caves, the chilly moss-hags were before them, but their resting-place this night must be determined by the setting of the sun. We have not been told where they wrapped themselves in their plaids for sleep, but it was likely on the ground. They sadly missed the cozy bed their mother used to make. Where they had to stop was so shelterless, silent, chilly, and lonely. They were weary, hungry, defenceless, trembling like nestlings cast violently out of the nest. Margaret the oldest was a mother to the others. She loved her Bible. It contained God's many promises, one especially precious on a night like this: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." With such assuring words, they fell asleep in each other's arms, their heads resting on the bosom of Christ's everlasting love. The sun arose, and they, wandering on, found the Covenanters, with whom they shared the privations, yea, also the consolations, of persecuted life.
Having heard that King Charles was dead, the two sisters supposed that the persecution had abated, and ventured to the house of Margaret McLaughlan, an old faithful friend. Here they were discovered and arrested; and, with this aged widow, were cast into prison. Agnes was ransomed by her father, at a price equal to $500. The two Margarets were sentenced to die. The manner of their death was peculiar and very shocking.
On May 11, 1685, they were taken to the sea-shore to be drowned. While the tide was low two stakes were driven deep into the oozy sand, one close to the water, the other nearer the shore. To the first Margaret McLaughlin was bound; to the second, Margaret Wilson. The shore was crowded with people. Major Windram, with his troop, had charge of the execution. This man himself like Gilbert Wilson had two daughters and a son. They, too, like the Wilson children, had become aroused at the deeds of blood, and remonstrated with their father against his atrocious cruelty, in persecuting the Covenanters. One after another they had sickened and died, each charging their death on him, as God's vengeance upon his deeds. This man, after all his bitter experience, was hard enough to watch these women die beneath the briny waves, and show them no pity. The tide slowly recovered its strength; higher and higher it arose around the more distant woman—up to her face—over her head—then a death-struggle. "What think you now of your companion?" said a soldier to the young maiden, as the head of the aged martyr rose and fell on the waves. "What do I see but Christ, in one of His members, wrestling there," she calmly replied. "Think you that we are the sufferers? No, it is Christ in us; for He sends none a warfaring on their own charges." The tide crept up upon this second martyr like the death-chill, but her heart was strong and fearless in the Lord. Her voice arose sweetly above the swash of the waves, reciting Scripture, pouring forth prayer, and singing Psalms. The tide swelled around her bosom, ascended her naked neck, touched her warm lips, yet the heavenly music continued. But now a breaker dashes over the uplifted face; the voice is silenced; the head droops upon the water. At this moment a soldier rushed forward, and dragged her to the shore, hoping that she had received enough of the sea to frighten her into a confession, and thereby securing her release. The gasping girl was asked to renounce her Covenant. She refused. "Dear Margaret," said a friend in melting tones, "Say, 'God save the king!' say, 'God save the king!'" With sweet composure, she answered, "God save him if He will, for it is his salvation I desire." Her friends, rushing up to the officers, exclaimed, "O, Sir, she has said it; she has said it." "Then let her take the oath, and renounce her Covenant," he replied with cruel harshness. She answered with emphasis, "I will not; I am one of Christ's children; let me go." They plunged her back into the heaving waters; the struggle was brief. The lifeless form was cast upon the strand, and soon borne off by loving hands. The limp body was now free from all sorrow and suffering. The beautiful casket was empty; the shining jewel had been taken to adorn the crown of the KING OF KINGS, and to flash forever in the glory of heaven.
"The tide flowed in, and rising over her lips, She sang no more, but lifted up her face, And there was glory all over the sky, And there was glory all over the sky, A flood of glory—and the lifted face Swam in it, till it bowed beneath the flood, And Scotland's Maiden Martyr went to God."
The young people who are governed by the Word of God, and strengthened by a Covenant with God, and steadfastly aim at the glory of God, will have the Holy Spirit in rich abundance. When love to Jesus arises into a holy passion, subordinating all earthly interests and relations, be assured that extraordinary services, sacrifices, achievements, victories, and honors are awaiting.
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. When did King Charles die?
2. What terrors must such a man have to meet at death?
3. Who was his successor on the throne?
4. What was his character?
5. What notable family suffered under him?
6. Relate the sad circumstances of the Wilson children.
7. What happened to the sisters and their elderly friend?
8. What was the manner of the death of the two Margarets?
9. Describe the martyrdom of Margaret Wilson.
10. How may the young people arise in strength for church service?
THE ELDERSHIP—A WALL OF DEFENCE.—A.D. 1685.
The eldership has ever been a tower of strength in the Covenanted Church. The elders have been pilots at the helm, when the ship was driven by fiercest storms, and the ministers had altogether disappeared. They have been the homeguards, when the most desperate assaults were made upon their beloved Zion. They have been leaders, moving forward with wise, fearless, and persistent step, when Christ's cause demanded aggressive testimony for down-trodden truth, and against uprising error.
The Presbyterian Church has derived her distinctive name from the office of the elder. Elder, Presbytery, Presbyterianism, Scriptural Church Government, Christ's supremacy unlimited and unrivaled—these thoughts are links in a chain, all made of the same gold. Presbyterianism is the doctrine of Christ's sovereignty, crystalized into form, and reduced to practice; the Headship of Jesus over His Church finds therein its grandest expression.
The Covenanted Presbyterians recognized only one form of Church government as Scriptural—that invested in the elders. They rejected all other forms, as human inventions, without Divine warrant, an injury to the Church, an infringement upon Christian liberty, a seizure of Christ's crown rights and a blot upon His royal glory.
The elders are Christ's delegates, appointed to administer His government in the Church. They are empowered by His will, accredited by His Spirit, directed by His Word, entrusted with His authority, and accountable at His throne. To the elders are committed, directly or indirectly, all the interests of Christ's Church. What awful responsibility! Surely the elder may pause at the threshold of the sacred office, and, with trembling lips exclaim, "How dreadful is this place!"
The Presbyterian Church of Scotland, in her palmy days, numbered about 1,000 congregations, each under the care of a session. The elders may therefore be estimated at 6,000 effective men, when the twenty-eight years' persecution struck the Covenanters. The value of this force can never be known, in advising, comforting, defending, and leading the broken congregations of God's people, amidst the storms that desolated their beloved Zion.
The minister, being assisted and encouraged by a faithful band of elders, was able to do great work in his parish, and the Church flourished exceedingly between the Covenant of 1638 and the persecution which began in 1660. During the persecution, the order of the Church being broken up, the election and ordination of elders had almost ceased. Yet, as the regular eldership melted away by death and defection, there were other sons of the Covenant, who, in spirit, service, suffering, and leadership, became elders in fact, and were duly recognized and honored.
The service of the elders in those days appeared in many forms. Captain Henry Hall, of Haughhead, did splendid work in a variety of ways. He often placed himself between the enemy and the field-meetings, in defense of the Covenanters. He was a large man, formidable and fearless. Many a time, with sword in hand, he rode his dashing charger upon the king's troops, occasionally breaking their ranks. He was chiefly distinguished, however, for his willingness to sacrifice all he possessed, in the interest of the Church. He opened up his house for the licensure of Richard Cameron, when such a meeting jeopardized his life, family, and property. He also opened up his farm for field-meetings, despite the wrath of the king, and the danger of being raided by the troops. A Communion, held on his grounds, was long remembered for the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. George Barcley was the minister on that occasion. The people had come from their rocky retreats and distant homes in great numbers. The preaching was refreshing, and the Lord's Table furnished a great feast for hungry souls. The people, not fully satisfied with the bountiful provisions of the Sabbath, came again on Monday, and swarmed over the green field, waiting for another service. During the sermon a shower descended, but the audience did not seem to mind it. The minister himself was quite pleased, remarking while the rain was falling, "I am as sensible of the drizzle of the dew of heaven upon our souls, as of the rain upon our bodies." Elder Hall died of wounds received while defending Donald Cargill, June 3, 1680.
The elders of those times were profoundly intelligent in the principles of the Covenant for which they suffered. They were Bible men, who delighted in the law of God, and drank deeply at the fountain-head of knowledge. They were experts in the Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and the Church Covenants. John Nisbet, of Hardhill, was a hero on many a field, defending minister and people from the merciless troopers; but his greatest service was in the use of the sword of the Spirit. His last testimony abounds with lovely passages of Scripture, beautiful and fragrant as a bush abloom with roses. His witness for the truth came from a rich heart; his protest against error was solemn as an affidavit. His testimony shows deep experience in the Lord, and gives faithful warning to Covenant-breakers. Here are some of his words: "I close with Christ in that way of redemption, which He hath purchased. I give my testimony to the Holy Scriptures, for they are the rule men are to walk by. I leave my testimony against all wrongers of my Lord's crown." This man died on the scaffold; he ascended the ladder, rejoicing and praising God, saying, "My soul doth magnify the Lord; my soul doth magnify the Lord. I have longed, these sixteen years, to seal the precious cause and interest of my precious Christ with my blood" He suffered December 4, 1685.
Many of the elders were filled with spiritual enthusiasm. They had such vivid views of the Lord Jesus and of the glory of the world to come, that their souls were poured out in exclamations of wonder. Robert Garnock, of Stirling, seemed at times to be caught up to the third heaven, where he saw and enjoyed what he was unable to utter. He could express the inexpressible only by the repetition of Oh! Oh! Oh! Referring to a season when no one was permitted to see him in prison, he said, "Oh, but I had a sweet time! The Lord's countenance was better unto me, than all the company in the world." In his dying testimony, he pleaded in the following manner: "Oh, will ye love Him? Oh, He is well worth the loving, and quitting all for! Oh! for many lives to seal the sweet cause with! If I had as many lives, as there are hairs on my head, I would think them all too few to be martyrs for the truth. Oh, if I could get my royal King Jesus cried up and down the world! Oh, but I think it very weighty business, to be within twelve hours of eternity! I will get my fill of love this night, for I will be with Jesus in paradise. Welcome, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; into thy hands I commit my spirit."
Those elders were men of hope. They were enlisted in a winning cause, and knew it. In the thickest of the fight, the cloud was dark, and the thunder deafening; yet they knew that victory would ultimately perch on their banner. Their triumph was assured in Christ, who had said, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Robert Miller, of Rutherglen, was, by his courageous hopefulness, an inspiration to the afflicted Church. Pointing to the future, he exhorted his fellow-sufferers to hold out, for glorious days were coming. "And now I dare not doubt," said he, "but Christ is upon His way to return again. Oh, be earnest with Him! Employ your strength holding up the fallen-down standard of our Lord. If ye be found real in this duty, ye shall either be a member of the Church Militant, and see the glory of the Second Temple, which shall be a glorious sight; or else ye shall be transported, and be a member of the Church Triumphant; so ye shall be no loser, but a noble gainer, either of the ways." He was martyred one winter morning, in the early dawn; the shadows of night still lingered, for the murderers may have dreaded the light. Before the sun had risen, his spirit took its flight to the realms of eternal brightness.
Are the elders of the Covenanted Church worthy of their predecessors? Do they measure up to the standard of fortitude in the faith, self-immolation for the truth, intelligence in the Scriptures, enthusiasm in Christ, and hopefulness that has no sunset? Are they leaders of the people in every good enterprise? Are they defenders of the flock against all defection? Are they carrying the banner of Christ forward, even beyond the ministers, where the testimony for King Jesus requires it? For all faithful elders, seats in glory are prepared round about the throne of God.
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. Whence did the Presbyterian Church get its name?
2. What is the only Scriptural form of church government?
3. What dread responsibility attached to this office?
4. How did the persecuted Church keep up her force of elders?
5. Describe the service some of them rendered; Hall, Nisbet, Garnock, Miller.
6. What questions should our elders apply to their own conscience?
A HOME DESOLATED.
"See the top of yon hill?" said the shepherd's wife, pointing to the highest crag of Cairn Table. "Keep that in yir e'en, and ye'll come to John Brown's grave." Our way lay through a pathless moor, covered deep with grass, rushes, and moss; and we had asked direction to the spot where the martyr's body sleeps.
The day was wet, the pasture was beaded with drops, and the rushing streamlets disputed our crossing yet a passionate longing to see the place where John Brown, known as the "Christian Carrier" had lived, and was buried, overcame every difficulty. The walk covered three miles. At length we ascended a knoll, and, lo, the monument stood before our eyes, and almost at our feet. Now we were on ground, where one of the most tragic scenes of Scotland was transacted. Cargill very beautifully said, "The moors are flowered with martyrs' graves." Here is one of these flowers; a century plant it is, watered with precious blood, and abloom in sweet solitude.
The buildings are gone; not a trace of them is left. The grave was made, it is said, where the martyr fell, in front of his cottage. It is enclosed with a stone wall breast high. A flat stone lies over the remains, bearing a copious inscription. The solitariness is oppressive; death and desolation here bear undisputed sway. The blood ran in chills, as the cold grey stones gave their testimony, amid the gusts that played with the heather, and the drizzle that sprinkled our bare heads. The thoughts of the heart played wildly; imagination refused to be bridled; in a moment former conditions were, in vision, revived. The monument had given place to the dwelling, and the dreariness was astir with the scenes of busy life.
The country around, was then, as it is now, somber as a desert. The silence is solemn; we bated our breath; the lips shrank from speaking; aught except a prayer, or the melody of a Psalm, seemed out of place. The outlook on every side is without an inhabitant; yet, even here, the persecutor sought his prey, and did his cruel work.
Many years had this home been a sanctuary in the wilderness, and a refuge for the hunted Covenanters. John Brown and Isabel, his wife, were like Zacharias and Elizabeth, "both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." They had two children, a babe in the mother's arms, and Janet, five years old, a child by a former wife. Morning and evening God's worship perfumed their humble dwelling. These hearts, filled with the love of Jesus, poured forth His praise every day, but especially on the Sabbath, which they kept with great care. Their hospitality was munificent: they entertained angelic strangers. The latch-string was on the outside, and many a Covenanter, driven by storms, or hunted by dragoons, found a welcome here. They came wearied with journeying, wasted with hunger, weakened with sickness, and worried with trouble, and found rest, comfort, and inspiration in this habitation, where God was pleased to dwell.
A society of Covenanters held its meetings in this home. Several families came across the broad moor on Sabbath morning, and remained till evening. Sometimes they traveled both ways under star-light, for fear of the enemy. The day was devoutly spent in prayer, reading the Word, singing Psalms, and conversing on the heart-stirring doctrines of redemption. They spoke much concerning the duties and dangers of the times. This society continued to meet, till broken up by the martyrdom of its men; one after another was pursued and shot down like game on the mountains.
John Brown's home became a rendezvous for the Delegated meetings of the United Societies. This thickened the dangers that were gathering around his life. He had a presentiment that his blood would be shed for the cause of Christ, yet he accepted duty at every hazard, and rejoiced in privileges however perilous.
After the death of Donald Cargill, the Cameronians for a while had no ministers. They stood, however, unfalteringly by their Covenant. They even grew aggressive in their testimony; hurled new challenges at the king; took forward steps in the battle for conscience, liberty, and the royal rights of Christ. The societies, numbering several hundred, were able to unify and utilize their strength, by means of the Delegated meetings. The second meeting of these delegates was held in this consecrated home. Sixteen men, representative Cameronians, competent and fearless elders, gathered around this hearth, where the turf-fire glowed, while the March storms swept the moorland. Here they deliberated how the Covenanters might continue the struggle, and intensify it by striking harder blows against error, and giving stronger testimony to the rights of their kingly Saviour. They were at no time planning for ease, safety, or deliverance. "We only fear," said one, "that our sufferings will end before the reformation begins." The glory of Jesus Christ was their objective point.
Alexander Peden in his wanderings, drifted into this home, on the night previous to the awful tragedy that occurred in the front yard. How surpassingly kind is God's providence! Surely Peden was sent of God to fill these hearts with comfort, courage, and triumph in Jesus Christ, for the trial, which was now at their door. Peden held John Brown in highest esteem. Of him he said, "He was a clear, shining light, the greatest Christian I ever conversed with." What a night of prayer and inspired fellowship those men must have had together. Their souls were then in a state of highest tension; both were fired with zeal for the Covenant of the Lord, and melted with sorrow for the desolated Church.
Next morning, May 1, 1685, they were up at dawn for family worship. The first verses of the 27th Psalm were sung. How wonderfully appropriate for such a morning! The Psalm is the shout of faith:
"The Lord's my light and saving health, Who shall make me dismayed? My life's strength is the Lord; of whom Then shall I be afraid?"
John Brown then went to the field, spade in hand to dig turf. Peden lingered; he was sad; the shadow of the great distress had fallen on his tender spirit. Taking his farewell of Mrs. Brown, he paused and said, as if to himself, "Poor woman; a fearful morning; a dark, misty morning!" He then went his way.
"Oh, mother, a great many horsemen are coming down the hill with father," cried little Janet, rushing into the house.
"The thing that I feared is come upon me," cried the mother, "O, give me grace for this hour," she prayed, lifting her eyes to heaven. Then taking her babe in her bosom, and Janet by the hand, she went out to meet the soldiers, praying as she went. Claverhouse was in command. She pleaded that her husband's life might be spared; but not words nor tears could move the hardened man.
"Will you pray for King James and his supremacy?" said Claverhouse to his prisoner.
"Jesus Christ is the Supreme Head of His Church," was the fearless reply.
"Will you attend the curate's service?" continued Claverhouse.
"I cannot attend where God's law is not honored," responded Brown.
"Go to your prayers, for you shall immediately die," cried Claverhouse. Even the soldiers were horrified at the awful threat.
"Isabel, this is the day I told you of, before we were married," said he tenderly to his wife. "You see me now summoned to appear before the Court of heaven, as a witness in our Redeemer's cause. Are you willing?"
"Heartily willing," she answered, her voice tremulous with affection for him and submission to God. Her heart was breaking, yet she would cheer up the martyr spirit of her husband.
"That is all I wait for," he said, then added in a rapture of joy, "O, death, where is thy sting? O, grave, where is thy victory?" He prayed for Covenant blessing upon mother and children, soon to be left so lonely; adding, "Blessed be thou, O Holy Spirit, that speaketh more comfort to my heart, than my oppressors can speak terror to my ears."
"Shoot" said Claverhouse to the soldiers, drawn up for the bloody work. Not a gun was discharged. The brutal leader then fired the deadly shot. The martyr fell at the feet of his wife, and after a brief struggle the noble spirit departed. "What think you of your husband now?" said Claverhouse to Mrs. Brown. "I always thought well of him, but more now than ever," she quietly replied. "You deserve the same fate," said the brutal man. "And if you had the power, I would receive it," she defiantly responded. "But O, how will you answer for this day's work?" she continued. "I'll take God in my own hand," he replied. The soldiers silently and sullenly rode away, ashamed of the horrible deed. Mrs. Brown, with her children, sat down beside the outstretched martyr, and poured out her great sorrow.
John Brown might have saved his life, and his family, by relaxing in his Covenant, and joining another Church. The family that keeps Covenant with God will surely be tried; difficulties and hardships must be met. But the victory is always to them who cling close to the Lord, in personal holiness, in family worship, and in Covenant-keeping.
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. Describe the location of John Brown's home.
2. What meetings were held in this cottage?
3. What interests were here under deliberation?
4. Who visited the home the evening before the sad event?
5. How was John Brown captured?
6. Describe the death of this martyr.
7. How could John Brown have saved his life?
LAST, BUT NOT LEAST.—A.D. 1688.
James Renwick was the last martyr publicly executed for adhering to Scotland's Covenant. He was a child of maternal vows. His mother dedicated him to the Lord, praying that he might live, and do worthy service for Christ. She saw her prayer answered; yea, more than answered; it became, also, a sword that pierced through her own soul. She had not asked too much; but great prayers always imply self-immolation.
The Renwick home was beautiful for situation. It was located near the quiet town of Moniaive. The building is gone, but the place is kept in remembrance by an attractive monument. The cottage stood on a hillside, overlooking a charming valley, and beyond the valley, a range of mountains reaching to the clouds, glistening with snow in the winter, and purple with heather in the summer. Young Renwick was a passionate lover of nature. Oft did he sit on this grassy slope, where stands the monument, and gaze, and ponder, and dream, till filled with amazement. Well did he know, that all the magnificence of earth and sky was but the shadow of the glory beyond, the frills of the Creator's robe, the evidence of a personal God. This boy, like young Samuel, did not yet know the Lord. He knew his Bible, his prayers, his Catechism, his Psalm-book, and his church; but he had no personal acquaintance with God. This he eagerly sought. One day, as he gazed upon valley and mountain, a wave of melancholy dashed upon his soul, and he exclaimed, "If these were devouring furnaces of burning brimstone, I would be content to go through them all, if so I could be assured that there is a God." Such agonizing for an experimental acquaintance with God is sure of reward. God revealed Himself. No great light breaking through the sky fell upon him; but there came an inner illumination by the Holy Spirit, which increased till his penetrating eyes saw God in everything; every bush was burning with His glory; every mountain was clothed with His majesty; all the heavens were speaking His praise; and yet he saw a thousand-fold more of the beauty of the Lord in the holy Covenant, and in the poor despised Covenanters who kept the faith, than in all the grandeur of nature. Renwick in this deep experience had his introduction to God. Oh, what a life we may expect of such a man! An introduction to God must result in a wonderful character. Look out for the boy, who says that he must find God; his life will yet be transfigured with real greatness and moral grandeur.
At the age of nineteen Renwick finished his university education. That year he witnessed the affecting sight of Donald Cargill's martyrdom. The execution was public; curiosity and sympathy had collected an immense throng around the scaffold, to see the old minister die. Renwick was in the crowd. He was not yet a Covenanter. He pressed forward to hear and see all he could. The sight was deeply affecting. The venerable man of God walked triumphantly to the place of execution. His hair was white with years and cares, his face serene as an angel, and his voice clear and strong in his last testimony. He ascended the ladder with firm step, and joyfully sealed the Covenant with his blood. Renwick gazed and trembled; his heart beat fast, and his eyes grew moist. From that day he was a Covenanter. He there, and then, resolved to give his life for the same noble cause.
The first notable service Renwick rendered to the Covenanters was his part in the public testimony given by the Society People, at Lanark, January 12, 1682. The death of Donald Cargill had bereaved the societies of their only pastor. They had no minister now, who would grasp the fallen Banner of the Covenant, and hold it forth, in defiance of the persecutor's rage. These people were the real Covenanters; they counted the Covenant of their Lord more precious than all the blood that could be poured out for its sake. Nor were they to be despised. They numbered at least 12,000. These were men and women noted for high principle, public spirit, intelligence, and courage. They seized the Banner of the Covenant, and kept it unfurled with utmost fidelity, while waiting for God to send them a standard-bearer. The persecution waxed hotter and hotter. The murderous guns were ever echoing over moors and mountains, in the desperate effort to exterminate the unconquerable societies. Yet they grew bolder, and more aggressive, in their testimony against the king, the Episcopacy, the Indulged ministers, and the silent shepherds. It was in mid-winter, when storms were a shelter from the foe, that forty armed Covenanters, including James Renwick, entered the town of Lanark, and there delivered a new Declaration of rights and wrongs, that made their enemies gnaw their tongues for pain.
We find Renwick, soon after this, studying theology in Holland. After twenty months he appeared before Presbytery for ordination. This is the man who has had his introduction to God. Now we will see what his acquaintance with God will do for him. Acquainted with God! Oh, how singular that will make any man! Acquainted personally with God, with His sovereignty, His holiness, His love of righteousness, and His hatred of sin! The man who is thus honored will be peculiar indeed. He will have deep insight, unswerving purpose, strong character, unhesitating courage. He will not deviate an hairbreadth from the law of God, as he sees it. He will not yield his convictions for any consideration. He will stand alone against the forces of all worlds combined, rather than compromise one jot of revealed truth. The pleading of friends and the threats of enemies will alike fall heedlessly upon his ears. He will consider every word of Christ, and every gem in His crown, worthy of all the blood that may flow for its sake. Such was James Renwick at this time.
There were no ministers of his own denomination to ordain him. The Church in Holland was not a Covenanted Church, but a branch of the Presbyterian Church, and at that time it was burdened with corruptions. But it was not guilty of Covenant-breaking, like the Church of Scotland. Therefore he sought ordination in Holland. Now, this is the man who is acquainted with God. Observe what he does. In his trial sermons, he laid bare the errors and faultiness of the Holland Church. What a daring step for a student of theology! What a breach of ordinary courtesy! He placed conventional etiquette on the altar of truth, and consumed it in the flames of zeal for God's House, and the purity of Divine worship. He would, then and there, give faithful testimony; for the opportunity might no more return. Presbytery listened with amazement; yet his arguments were so Scriptural, and his manner so gracious, they cordially sustained him. Next came the act of subscribing the creed before ordination could be granted. This he positively refused to do, for it had not the approval of his conscience. They yielded here also, permitting him to sign the Standards of the Church of the Covenant. He won his way. Decorum was nothing to him, in comparison with conscience and God. He then came back to Scotland, and visited the ministers, pleading with the Indulged to return to the Covenant, and entreating the silent ones to come out of their caves, and make the land ring again with their voices. He was small in person, slender and delicate, and scarcely yet out of his boyhood. He everywhere met with repulse. Vexed and disappointed, he went alone, in the strength of the Lord, to the little flocks scattered over the wilderness. The societies gathered about him; the Field-meetings were revived; the Lord poured out His Holy Spirit in great power; the shout of a king was again heard in the camp of the Covenanters.
Renwick's ministry lasted about four years. During this time he seemed to be the most hated man in the world; reproach, revenge, and hatred rolled over his head like breaking waves. He was called a deceiver, a fanatic, a schismatic, a traitor. He was pursued by malicious rumors to blacken his name, and by armed men to shed his blood. Yet he continued steadfastly on his way. Winter storms and summer rains could not abate his ardor. Neither the advice of friends, nor the wrath of foes, could swerve him, no, not one moment, nor one hairbreath. His spirit was on fire while his body was emaciated. A thousand arrows were flying around this dove, some of them drinking its blood, yet was it singing.
One night he appeared at the door of John Brown. He was graciously received. A storm was sweeping the moor. As he sat by the glowing fire, drying his dripping garments and warming his shivering body, he remarked, "Reproach has not broken my heart; but the excessive traveling, and many exposures, have weakened my body."
His mother and sisters visited him when in jail, awaiting his execution. Looking into their sad faces, he cheered them up, by exclaiming, "Oh, how can I contain this, to be within two hours of the crown of glory! Let us be glad, and rejoice. This death is to me, as if I were to lie down on a bed of roses." When the drum sounded the signal for the execution, he cried out, "Yonder, the welcome warning; the Bridegroom is coming; I am ready, I am ready." He died with the words of assurance on his lips: "Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
Are present Covenanters acquainted thus with God? Have they the all-inclusive view of His glorious Trinity, His personal presence, His revealed will, His exacting requirements, His omnipotent grace, His redeeming love, His mediatorial kingdom, His everlasting Covenant? Have they the view that will keep them steadfast, progressive, and enthusiastic in His service? They, who have an abiding acquaintance with God, will eventually develop a life, that will be clear as the sun, deep as the sea, firm as the rock, and strong as the cedar.
* * * * *
POINTS FOR THE CLASS.
1. Where was James Renwick born?
2. How was he troubled with doubts regarding God?
3. How did the death of Cargill affect him?
4. What was his first notable service in the Covenant?
5. Where did he study theology?
6. How did he testify against the errors of the Church of Holland?
7. What success did he have in his ministry?
8. What was his great sorrow?
9. Wherein lay his unwavering strength?
THE SHEPHERDLESS FLOCK.
Renwick received the martyr's crown at the age of twenty-six. His limp body was borne from the scaffold to Greyfriar's churchyard. A spot of ground, a few yards square, had been allotted there for criminals. The Covenanters in these days were accounted criminals by the civil authorities. Here the ground was stirred again and again, till the bodies of 100 martyrs were heaped together, and Renwick's was the last. A suitable stone bearing his name, and referring to the others, now graces this hundredfold grave. What a cluster of gems the Lord will find here, in the day when He makes up His jewels!
When the Blue Banner fell from Renwick's lifeless hand, Alexander Shields grasped it. He was scarcely worthy. Though he had served well and suffered much in former years, yet once he had lapsed. This temporary defection, while pardonable, proved to be a symptom of inherent weakness that unfitted him for leadership. For his fault he shed tears, but they could not remove the stain, nor restore confidence. The fearless Covenanters continued the struggle, their own spiritual momentum being sufficient to carry them forward with or without leaders. The persecution had now reached its eventide; the sunset was showing some rosy tints; a bright day would soon be dawning. This year, 1688, William, Prince of Orange, with an army of 15,000, disputed the right of King James to the throne. The persecutor was able to give the Covenanters no more attention. The coward fled without a battle. He lost his kingdom, and, with his fall, the house of the Stuarts sank into oblivion, as had been predicted by the Covenanters.