SCOTTISH COVENANTER HISTORY
CROMWELL AND KING CHARLES
The story of religious covenanting in Scotland covers a long period,
beginning in 1557 when certain men did ‘band thame selfis’ to maintain
‘the trew preaching of the Evangell of Jesus Christ’. Two years later,
after the return of John Knox from Geneva, the reforming party entered
into three distinct covenants [at Perth, Edinburgh and Stirling
respectively] for the purpose of promoting the work of the Reformation.
Again, in 1560, a covenant of a more political nature contributed to the
extirpation of French influence from Scottish affairs and issued within
a few weeks in the Treaty of Edinburgh with Protestant England. Seven
years later Mary of Scots was overthrown, and certain ‘articles’, to
which the leaders of the people subscribed, virtually formed a still
further ‘band’ to enable Protestantism to become ‘rooted, grounded and
settled’ in the land.
The Battle of Drumclog" by Sir
George Harvey RSA - 1836
of history is surprisingly unknown and undocumented outside the borders of
Scotland. However it was a violent period that pitted fellow countrymen against
each-other, rather like the English Civil War that took place around the same
time. Although on a smaller scale it was often more brutal as the following
chapters will describe:
South West Scotland is a peaceful and largely prosperous area, however there survive a large number of 'martyrs'
graves, which are reminders of an altogether more turbulent past. Many are
located on remote moorland, marking the spot where government soldiers killed
supporters of the Covenant. Others are to be found in parish Kirkyards either
erected at the time or often replaced by modern memorials. Almost every corner
of southern Scotland has a tale to tell of the years of persecution, from remote
and ruinous shepherds' houses where secret meetings were held to castles and country houses commandeered by
government troops in their
quest to capture and punish those who refused to adhere to the King's religious
Scotland was in an almost constant state of civil unrest because people
refused to accept the royal decree that King Charles was head of the church (known
as the 'Kirk'). When
those who refused signed a covenant which stated that only Jesus Christ could
command such a position, they were effectively signing their own death warrant.
This was a grim period of religious persecution which witnessed the bloodiest
crimes of the nation's history, committed by Scots against Scots.
Scots holding their young King's nose to the grindstone"
cartoon from 1651 showing Charles II being lectured to by his Scots subjects
of the struggle
VI of Scotland became James I of England in March 1603 when he was declared
rightful heir upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. It is important to remember
that during the reign of James as King of both Scotland and England, the two
nations retained their separate parliaments and privy councils. They passed
their own laws and enjoyed their own law courts; they had their own national
church, their own ways of levying taxes and regulating trade, and to a certain
extent, they could pursue their own foreign policies.
Scotland itself was
practically two distinct nations. There was a huge division between Highland and
Lowland. James's attempts to persuade the clan chiefs to adopt the Protestant
faith were a failure. They clung to the military habits of their ancestors,
their Jacobite (Catholic) heritage and
continued the Gaelic tongue when most of Scotland had abandoned it in favour of
also had a long-running quarrel with the Presbyterian Scottish Kirk
(a strict form of Protestantism) and
resented what he saw as their interference in matters of state.
as practiced by the Scots was a hard, unyielding faith. It was deeply suspicious
of Christmas, and abominated graven images such as the crucifix. It did not
recognise Easter as a celebration. James insisted
that his divine authority came before the Kirk's civil jurisdiction. This conflict between two
uncompromising factions was to strongly influence this whole period of Scottish
history. James, despite his Scots ancestry, left London to visit his native
country only once in the years he
held the 'two crowns' between 1603 and 1625.
I reigned 1625-1649
On the accession to the throne of Charles I
he was determined to continue the work of his father. Charles therefore
proposed bringing the Scots church into line with that of England, an
extremely controversial move which provoked outrage north of the border.
He was an
opponent of Presbyterianism and thought it would be simpler if all his
subjects would adopt
Episcopacy (government of the church by crown appointed Bishops). He
therefore planned the introduction of the 'Book of
Common Prayer' into the Scottish church service. This took some time to
plan and it was
not until 23rd July 1637 that the new liturgy, which many Scots believed
more Catholic than Protestant, was ordered to be read in the Church of
title page of the new 'Book of Common Prayer'
Tradition has it
when the new service was read, one worshipper, Jenny Geddes stood up and threw
her stool at the Dean's head shouting out "Wha daur say mass in ma lug".
The congregation erupted and the service had to be abandoned. Although this act
is commonly portrayed as a spontaneous outbreak of popular indignation, there is
evidence that the incident was carefully planned and contrived.
Geddes provokes a riot
February 1638 the 'National Covenant' was produced on behalf of the Church of Scotland,
backed by the nobility and gentry, in opposition to the new book of prayer. This
was essentially an anti-Papist declaration and 60,000 folk gathered to sign the
documents which had been placed on public display in Greyfriars church,
copies were taken throughout the country for further signatures, bringing the
Scottish Kirk into direct conflict with the the King and the rule of
signing of the Covenant in Greyfriars churchyard
League and Covenant
- Title page of the Solemn League and Covenant.
Cromwell was now in
control of England following his victory over Charles I. The Scots, angered by
the unilateral English decision to execute a monarch shared by both kingdoms,
then proclaimed Charles II King one week after his father’s execution, in the
hope of negotiating with him to secure ‘a Covenanted King’. Cromwell, however,
as an Independent supported by the Army, made up largely of Independents, set
his face against the Presbyterian form of church government.
was Cromwell’s fear of a
invasion of England to restore Charles and impose
Presbyterianism that led to his own invasion and occupation of Scotland in 1650.
was much less
hostile to Scottish
some of whom had been his allies in the First English Civil War, than he was to
Irish Catholics. He made a famous appeal to the General Assembly of the Church
of Scotland, urging them to see the
error of the royal alliance: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it
possible you may be mistaken!”.
The Scots' reply was robust: "would you have us to be sceptics in our religion?"
This rebuff and the decision to negotiate with Charles II led Cromwell to
believe that war was necessary. His
victory at the Battle of Dunbar on 3rd September 1650
saw 4,000 Scottish
following which he quickly captured Edinburgh.
Scotland was now
under English rule.
Oliver Cromwell 1599 - 1658
1st Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.
Cromwell was supreme lord of a united Britain which was now a conquered country
living under an army of occupation. However it was to be short-lived as
Cromwell died in 1658. he was
Finally on 29th May 1660 Charles' son, Charles II was fully restored to the
throne returning from exile in The Netherlands, entering London on his 30th
Birthday which he declared a Public Holiday.
soon passed an act which enforced the people to recognise him as the supreme
authority in matters both Civil and Ecclesiastical. The Church of Scotland
rejected this and was thrown into the furnace of persecution for twenty eight
long years until 1688.
of the Covenant and Rullion Green
In 1661 the National Covenant was repudiated
by Charles II. The following year the Covenant was torn up and Charles' own
Bishops and curates were appointed to govern the churches and 400 non-conforming
ministers were ejected from their parishes. At first the authorities tolerated
them preaching in houses, barns or the open-air, but it was soon realised that
the people's resolve was such that they would not attend the
government-appointed Episcopal minister's services. The first attempt at
limiting attendance at these conventicles was made in 1663 and by 1670
attendance became treasonable and preaching at them, a capital offence.
By 1666 the persecution by soldiers who were
given lists of the names of the non-attendees by the curates, was so bad that
the country became increasingly restless. When the village of Dalry in Galloway witnessed an
old man being roasted with branding irons by the soldiers, a rebellion
commenced. It had not been planned, but numbers flocked to the cause and a
spontaneous march took place in horrific November weather via Lanark towards Edinburgh. The
exhausted Covenanters were ultimately defeated at Rullion Green in the Pentland
Hills when an army of 3,000 led by General Tam Dalyell routed the meagre band of 900 protestors.
100 were killed on the battlefield and 120 taken prisoner and marched to
Edinburgh and charged with treason and rebellion. It is estimated that a further
300 Covenanters escaped, but died or were slain on their way home.
kirkyard, Edinburgh. The Covenanters prison
captured Covenanters were crowded into part of the High Kirk in Edinburgh known
as 'Haddock's Hole'. They were brought before the Justiciary Court and on
December 7th 1666 they were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged on the
Mercat Cross in Edinburgh. As many as ten at a time were despatched on one scaffold, dismembered and the pieces
exhibited in the Covenanter's own locality as a warning.
13th August 1670 the government declared that
conventicles, or meetings in the fields were illegal and it was a capital offence
to attend these. The authorities were concerned that these were becoming a
hot-bed of revolutionary ideas. The vast outdoor assemblies were being thrilled
by the preacher's words of fiery defiance and doom-laden prophecy. However the Presbyterians defied them and held secret
religious meetings in the hills, usually with a circle of lookouts, often armed,
posted around the site to watch
for approaching dragoons. There were many bloody skirmishes amongst the bare lowland
landscape. This was a time of legends, of the soldiers fun in throwing women in
pits full of snakes, of men hanged on their own door lintels.
conventicles were usually held in the open air
were to be broken up and any land owner who refused to help could be fined; instead
of turning master against man however, it forged links of shared suffering.
Secret conventicles were attended by up to thousands of people at only a few
hours notice, with mass
marriages being carried out with a rock as an alter and baptisms performed
in small streams. Followers of the Covenant were willing to risk the fines and
sentences in order to hear the preachers. For example 7,000 people attended a
conventicle near Maybole in Ayrshire in 1678, performed by four ministers and at
East Nisbet in Berwickshire the same year 3,200 took part of which 1,600 were seated.
massive conventicle took place on Skeoch Hill In Kirkudbrightshire in 1679.
There were 6,000 Covenanters in attendance to hear three preachers, of which
3,000 were allowed to take part in communion. In the centre of the congregation
a series of large boulders were arranged in four parallel rows for the
communicants, perhaps around 300 at a time to sit on. These stones, known as the
Communion stones are still there.
the conventicle was infiltrated by a few non-adherents who slipped off early to
inform the authorities. The Covenanters had to be highly vigilant as the threat
of armed intervention was ever present. The participants were most likely to be
captured or executed, usually on their way to and from conventicles. The fact
that they were away from home and probably had a bible in their possession was
enough for the authorities to justify fining or executing them., often killing
them where they stood.
government were becoming desperate and in early 1678, nine thousand soldiers
from the largely Catholic highlands were
brought south from their garrison in Stirling to Glasgow and the south-west. The
town fathers of Ayrshire wrote
to the Earl of Lauderdale, a senior official requesting him not to send so
"inhumane and barbarous a crew of spoilers" into that county. The
appeal fell on deaf ears. Parties of highland soldiers were
quartered on land owned by suspected Covenanter sympathisers who were required
to feed them and keep them for nothing. These were
known as the 'Highland host' and the highlanders were responsible for many
atrocities, robbing their hosts of all belongings and livestock; rape,
pillage and destruction. Thousands of pounds worth of damage and theft were done
in the few months they were in residence.
example was in Kilmarnock where nine highland soldiers were quartered on William
Dickie for six weeks. He was required to supply them with food and drink and
when they eventually left his house, they stole bags full of ornaments, cutlery,
plates and a sock full of money, to a total value of 1,000 merks (scottish
pounds). The soldiers also maltreated him and his family. His wife was pregnant,
yet one of the highlanders stuck a dirk (knife) into her side and she died soon
after. Dickie himself was struck on a number of occasions for not supplying all
the soldiers needs and one of the beatings resulted in two broken ribs.
minister of Kilmarnock, Rev Alexander Wedderburn, was so appalled by the actions
of the highlanders in the town that he condemned them in one of his sermons. The
highlanders heard this and caught up with him as he walked through the streets.
In a scuffle one of the soldiers lunged at the minister with the butt of his
gun, winding him and causing him to fall to the ground. He died shortly after of
parishes have records which detail the cost of putting up the highlanders, sums
in money which were long in recouping. For example, two hundred and fifty
soldiers and officers from Caithness were quartered within the Parish of Cumnock
for fifteen nights and the total losses recorded in the accounts were £3015 6s
8d. The total for Avondale parish in Lanarkshire was reckoned to be £1,700,
although it has been surmised that this figure was only one third of the true
of Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge
situation was becoming grave in the Lowlands and South West and by 1679 the men
of Galloway were to rise again in what became known as the 'Second Resistance'.
It began with the "Rutherglen Declaration" when they condemned the proceedings
of the government since 1660. Shortly afterwards a huge conventicle was
arranged, somewhere in Lanarkshire. This was more than a gesture of defiance, it
was a challenge the government had to meet to retain their credibility. John
Graham of Claverhouse, known to his enemies as "Bloody Clavers" rode out from Glasgow with about 180 dragoons,
with them. Born in 1648, near Dundee, he was abhorred by the Covenanters
for the part he played in ordering the execution of many friends and supporters,
many being killed by his own hands.
landscape at Drumclog in the shadow of Loudoun Hill
found them drawn up in order of battle at the farm of Drumclog, near Loudoun
Hill, on the morning of 1st June 1679. They had chosen their position skilfully,
in front was a deep ditch and all around were bogs. About 1500 in number the
Covenanters had had little fear of the scarlet soldiers coming towards them on
After an exchange of musket fire with little effect, Claverhouse held back as he
had no-one to guide his men through the morass. His enemies solved his problems
for him. Led by William Cleland, a young man who was later to become a famous
soldier as the first colonel of the Cameronians, a large party of men made their
way around the ditch and threw themselves on the dragoons who by now had
dismounted. Bogged down in the
marshy ground and totally outnumbered, the soldiers had no advantage as they
were attacked at close quarters by sword, pike and pitchfork. Thirty six dragoons
were killed, seven made prisoner and the rest fled towards Strathaven.
Claverhouse had lost the battle of Drumclog.
their hour had come, the Covenanters proposed a march on Glasgow but discovered
that the fearful residents had placed barricades across the streets to prevent them from entering
the city. It was now full scale civil war, with the militia mobilised and armed
men guarding the fords over the River Forth on the approaches to Edinburgh. The
Covenanters turned about and at Bothwell Bridge, a crossing over the River Clyde just
north of Hamilton they made their stand. By now they had become a rabble with no
attempt at military formation.
This time they were soundly defeated by
government troops led by the Duke of Monmouth, with perhaps 600 killed on the
field and in the subsequent pursuit, 1,200 taken prisoner. Most of these were
marched to Edinburgh where they were locked up in an enclosure of Greyfriars
Kirkyard. Five months later after many had escaped, some had died and others
were forced to sign a declaration of government support, 257 Covenanters remained.
They were sentenced
to banishment to the American plantations and placed on board a ship at Leith. However it foundered off the
Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland, with almost all on board being drowned.
Bridge today. The original 15th century bridge was widened and enlarged in 1822
Thomson of Tanhill
Thomson, born about 1630, was a farmer from Tanhill which is on the west side of
Lesmahagow parish, bordering Stonehouse. The family of the martyr was in earlier
times located in a place called Cunningair or Collingair in Stonehouse parish
opposite Dovesdale. It was from here in the late 1500's that James Thomson's
family was to travel to the lands at Tanhill.
Little is known about
him, except he died of wounds inflicted
at the Battle of Drumclog in 1679. His son and his wife suffered imprisonment
and James was later interred in Stonehouse
St.Ninian's old kirkyard. His tomb reads :
lays or near this Ja Thomson
was shot in Rencounter at Drumclog, June 1st 1679
bloody Graham of Clavers House
his adherence to the Word of God and Scotland's
Work of reformation - Rev xii 11
the other side :
hero brave who doth lye here
truth's defence did he appear,
to Christ's cause he firmly stood
he'd sealed it with his blood.
sword in hand upon the field
lost his life, yet did not yield.
days did End in Great renown,
he obtained the Martyrs Crown.
descendants renewed his stone in 1832 and it was repaired again in 1955 due to
damage caused by the elements of nature. His descendants have been numerous,
many of them have been ruling elders in the Church of Scotland. Many
inhabitants of Stonehouse today can trace their origins from the family line,
including a large number of Sorbies. This is because Ann Thomson who married Mitchell
Sorbie the famous "foot-racer" in 1848, was James' 5xGreat
from 1680 until 1685 was one of the fiercest in terms of persecution
a few months between 1684-5 became forever known as the "Killing Times".
Charles' brother James II had come to the throne, he was a believer
in the Devine Right of Kings and a supporter of the Roman Catholic
became his sworn intent to totally eradicate the Presbyterians.
Lists were drawn up in accordance with instructions to the Episcopalian
Curates to furnish Nominal Rolls of all persons, male and female, over
the age of 12 within their Parishes. The Ministers were ordered to give "..a
full and complete Roll of all within the Parish" and "that
to their Knowledge they give Account of all Disorders and Rebellions, and who
are guilty of them, Heritors or others.." Their instructions concluded,
"..No remarks need be made upon these Demands made upon every Curate in
every Parish; they are plain enough, as also their Design.." The
'design' of this census was obviously to assist in the control and persecution
of the Covenanters. The list drawn up for Wigtownshire in 1684, featured a total
of 9,276 individuals in the 19 Parishes and was probably ordered by John Grahame
of Claverhouse who had been appointed the Sheriff of Wigtownshire.
Amongst the list were - Marion Sorbie from Auchleand, Burgh of Wigtown;
Catherine Sorbie from Lochans, Parish of Inch; John and James Sorbie from
Minnigaff and Patrick Sorbie from Claughan of Penninghame.
These were the
most horrific and atrocious times ever inflicted on the people of Scotland. The
Covenanters were now flushed out and hunted down as never before and the common soldier was
empowered to take life at will of any suspect without trial of law. Usually it
was done without any evidence and often as the result of the suspicions of an
over-zealous town official or Minister. Brutality in
these days defied the imagination and the persecution had no mercy on man, woman
or child, irrespective of circumstances. Any class of Covenanter once caught by
the King's troops was shot or murdered on the spot. The following are some
examples of these crimes:
Murder of John Brown
of the well-known martyrdoms took place at this time, including the notorious murder of
John Brown by Claverhouse at Priesthill, about one mile from the Strathaven
road. This was at his own front door, in full view of his wife and
children after a long chase through the moors and mosses of Lanarkshire and
Ayrshire. John was a devout Christian and would probably have been a fierce
preacher were it not for the fact he had a speech impediment. Many Covenanters
were welcomed to his cottage and illegal meetings were held there. On 1st May
1685 a number of soldiers arrived, commanded by John Graham of Claverhouse. Brown was asked to
swear the oath of allegiance to the crown, but he refused. It was noted that in
his answers to Graham, Brown's stutter left him and he is said to have responded
with the eloquence of a preacher.
was then dragged back to his own front door and in front of his wife, daughter
and baby boy in arms he was thrown to the ground and told to pray. Claverhouse's
temper grew as the prayers went on and on. He interrupted Brown three times and
bellowed that he "gave him time to pray, not preach". 'Bloody Clavers'
then ordered his men to shoot the Covenanter and it was reported that they
initially hesitated as they were to perform the act in front of women and
children. It is said that Claverhouse suffered nightmares afterwards and the
words of Brown's prayers continually haunted him. Friends helped John's wife
Isabel to bury her husband near to where he fell and the spot is still marked with
a memorial and flat gravestone. Many of Brown's
descendants still live in the surrounding towns of Lanarkshire.
The Wigtown Martyrs
despicable event was the drowning of two women who were tied to stakes in Wigtown
engulfed in the rising Solway tide. This punishment was meted out to Margaret
Lachlane aged 63 years and Margaret Wilson in her mid twenties, who refused to
give up the Covenant and so they became known as the "Wigtown Martyrs".
at Wigtown to the Martyrs
names had been given to the authorities by two local 'king's curates' as being
non-attendees at the church, thus branding them as 'disorderly' parishioners.
Both had gone into hiding, but a party of dragoons led by the feared Robert
Grierson of Lag soon found their hideaways. They were tried before the court in
Wigtown on 13th April 1685 and were sentenced by the judges to execution by
were marched down from the Tollbooth by the soldiers and two stakes were
hammered into the sands. The tide was out, the sands being so flat that the sea
recedes almost two miles thereabouts. The soldiers first went to Lachlane, and
give her the chance to
pray for the King, but she refused. Some men were incensed at the impudence of the
old woman, and one cursed and told the soldiers to, "Let her
gang to hell". As the tidal race worked it's way higher up the body of old
Margaret, one of the town soldiers took his halberd and held it over her throat,
bringing her to a quicker end.
on the Monument
Margaret Wilson began to sing the 25th Psalm as
the waters rose up her body, "Consider mine enemies, how many they are.
And they bear a tyrannous hate against me". Finally one soldier came forward and
upon pushing her body under the water said "Tak anither drink, hinny; clep
wi' the partans". The reference to the partans or crabs, was made as the
women are said to have grasped the stakes tightly. At
a later time, when the tide had once again receded, the corpses of the two women
were taken from the waters and under the cover of nightfall transferred to the
Parish Kirkyard. A grave was hastily dug and they were laid in consecrated soil.
at Blackwood Farm
the same month of April 1685, a group of 12 Covenanters including James White
formed a small prayer group at Little Blackwood farm, near to Moscow in the
parish of Kilmarnock. Peter Inglis was in charge of a company of troopers, based
at the garrison in the keep in the small town of Newmilns. He had heard that an
illegal covenant was planned, so he set off with a small group of soldiers. On
reaching the farm they split up and surrounded the building. Something disturbed
the meeting inside, perhaps a dog barking. In any case, the Covenanters abruptly
ended their meting and tried to make their escape. As they stumbled about in the
darkness, the Dragoons loosed a volley of shots at White and he crashed to the
ground dead. Of the others eight were apprehended and three managed to
Inglis found an axe on the farm and instantly severed White's head from his
body. Grabbing it by the hair he tied it to his horse's saddle and returned with
his trophy to Newmilns. The remainder of White's body was left lying on the
ground and was trampled by cattle which were stolen from the farm. His remains
were later interred at Fenwick. The captured Covenanters were arrested and
marched to the garrison at Newmilns. The following day the word had spread
throughout the Loudoun area about the incident and a crowd had gathered close to
the garrison. They were shocked and repulsed to see Inglis carry out White's
head by the hair and on the burgh green threw it into the air. When it landed he
and the soldiers kicked it around, playing a makeshift game of football.
Tower - Built in 1530
next morning Captain John Inglis, Peter's father was about to execute the eight
prisoners when officials of the burgh intervened and stated that an official
order should be obtained. Peter Inglis was then despatched to Edinburgh where he
readily received such an order from the Privy Council. However the parishioners
of Loudoun were scheming a rescue and made plans that night to spring a release.
A group of about 60 approached the tower and easily overpowered the guards. In
the ensuing scramble two soldiers were shot. Using large hammers they had
borrowed from the local smithy they battered the gate down and all were able to
escape. The only casualty in the mêlée being John Law, one of the rescuers who
was shot by a soldier from an upper window in the tower. He was buried where he
fell in the castle yard.
soldiers searched the district the following day, but had difficulty in
recapturing the prisoners. They discovered a man named James Smith at East
Threepwood Farm near Galston, who had given the fugitives some food. He tried to
escape, but was wounded by soldiers at his front door. He was taken to Mauchline
Castle where he later died of his wounds.
of Lag and George Short
Grierson of Lag was one of the most feared persecutors of the Covenanters. Born
around 1655 he had inherited the old castle of Lag in Dumfriesshire from his
cousin in 1667. In 1678 he was appointed Deputy Steward of Kirkudbrightshire and
the Earldom of Nithsdale. It was at this time that he drew up a bond disallowing
his tenants from attending conventicles or associating with the Covenanters. He
was unrelenting in his search for non-conformists, hunting down and murdering a
large number of Covenanters in the district.
March 2nd 1685 he surprised eight Covenanters in the East Galloway hills who had
just left a prayer meeting at Lochenkit. Four men who shot where they stood and
two were hung on an oak tree the following day at Irongray. A local woman named
Ferguson tore her scarf in two, in order to make a blindfold for the
condemned men. She was captured by the soldiers and sentenced to the American
plantations for seven years. The remaining two Covenanters were sold as slaves
to the West Indies.
11th July, the same year, Lag and the Earl of Annandale were in command of a
troop of dragoons in the parish of Twynholm, Kirkcudbrightshire. At night
as they were riding back to their base they came upon two Covenanters,
David Halliday and George Short. Realising they had no chance of escape, they
gave themselves up. Annandale decided they should be taken prisoner and face
trial the next day. However Lag ordered that the pair should be shot as they lay tied
up on the ground. At first the soldiers refused, but when Lag threatened them
with the consequences if he was forced to do the deed himself, they pulled their
guns and fired.
of George Short's Grave (in the foreground) at Balmaghie
The front of the
WHO WAS PURSUED
SHOT TO DEATH
UNDER CLOUD OF
IN THE PARISH OF
BY GRIER OF
AND THE EARLE OF
BECAUSE OF HIS
corpses were left where they fell, but were later taken to Balmaghie Kirkyard,
close to the Dee River (now known as Loch Ken) where they lie in separate graves. David Halliday is buried alongside his
namesake who had already been martyred on 21st February 1685 at Kirkconnell
work hounding the Covenaters did not go unrecognised by the authorities, for on
28th March 1685, he was granted a Boronetcy and a pension of £200. He had
married Lady Henrietta Douglas, sister of William, 1st Duke of Queensberry. He
died on 31st December 1733 aged 88 at his town house in Dumfries. It is said the
horses pulling his hearse to Dunscore's old Kirkyard died of exhaustion and that
a black raven, a symbol of the devil landed on his coffin and it took many
waving mourners to frighten it away. However the bird followed the cortege the
six miles from Dumfries to Dunscore and only flew away when the coffin was
buried in the ground.
1688, the fugitive preacher James Renwick was captured an executed at the
scaffold in Edinburgh's Grassmarket, the last Covenanter to suffer a public
execution. He was born in Moniaive in Dumfriesshire on 15th February 1662,
the son of a weaver, Andrew Renwick. He was always interested in religion and it
is said that, by the age of six was able to read and question the contents of a
bible. His parents scrimped and saved to ensure James received an
education and after attending school in Edinburgh was able to attend the
University. After graduating with an MA degree in 1681, he began to question the
King's authority over the church after witnessing the public hanging of a number
of Covenanters. He moved to Lanark and started to attend a series of conventicles and
in October 1682 was chosen to study for the ministry at the University of
Groningen in the Netherlands. He was ordained in May 1683 and arrived back in
his homeland in October that year. On 23rd November 1683 a large conventicle was
held at Darmead at which he commenced his ministry, preaching to many hundreds.
George Harvey gives a comfortable Victorian view of what must have been a far
less tranquil scene in reality
Thus began one of many close shaves with the authorities. In July 1684 he was
travelling with three others across Strathaven Moor. They were spotted by
Dragoons and a chase ensued. He galloped towards the summit of Dungavel Hill,
dismounted and hid in a hollow until nightfall before he moved on. In the next
few months he was responsible for the baptism of over 300 children and also
performed many marriages and funerals, all held in remote farms and on the moors.
September 1684, the Privy Council had issued a warrant for his capture and the
following year Renwick was at the head of 200 Covenanters who affixed a
declaration on the cross at Sanquhar, in which James VII was denounced as a
murderer an idolater. After this he made sure there was a lookout stationed
wherever he went and at any conventicle at which he was preaching and there was
always a horse standing by, saddled and bridled, on which the fugitive could
make a swift getaway.
last conventicle took part at Riskenhope in Selkirkshire in January 1688.
According to an onlooker, James Hogg, "When he prayed that day, few of his
hearer's cheeks were dry. My parents were well acquainted with a woman whom he
there baptized". Renwick was apprehended on 1st February 1688 on one of his
secret visits to Edinburgh. A group of excise men visited the home of his friend
and trader John Lackup under the guise that they were checking up on him. In
reality they were hoping to capture Renwick and claim a reward. A scuffle broke
out and the preacher made a bid for freedom, running down the Castle Wynd.
However he was easily caught, taking a number of blows in the process and then
taken to gaol. Patrick Graham, Captain of the Guards, looked at the 26 year old
and asked "Is this boy the Mr Renwick that the nation hath been so much
condemned Renwick being taken for execution
on trial, the witnesses for the prosecution included such notables as
Claverhouse himself. He was sentenced to die on 8th February 1688 and the
execution was postponed for two weeks. In which time Renwick received numerous
visitors including the Bishop of Edinburgh and the Lord Advocate who pleaded
with him to accept at least some rule of the King, but he refused. On the day of
his hanging he was allowed to see his mother and sister who had made their way
up from Dumfriesshire, his father having died when James was twelve.
the scaffold Renwick attempted to address the crowd, but all the time the
soldiers beat their drums in order to drown out his words. The hangman sprung
the trapdoor and he dropped to his death. His remains were taken from the
scaffold by a follower and rolled in a winding sheet before being buried in
Greyfriars' Kirkyard. Renwick would have been the last Covenanting martyr but for a 16-year-old
lad, George Wood. He was shot down in the fields a few days later near the
village of Sorn, Ayrshire and is buried in the parish Kirkyard there.
for the Covenanters the period of terror was nearly over. For all his
provocative attempts to restore Catholicism in England, King James II still had
powerful support among the Tory stalwarts of the established order. But he
seemed bent on undermining his own power base. In the spring of 1688 he ordered
his Declaration of Indulgence, suspending the penal laws against Catholics, to
be read from every Anglican pulpit in the land. The Church of England and its
staunchest supporters, the peers and gentry, were outraged. The birth of an
heir, James Francis Stuart (later to become the Old Pretender) increased public
disquiet about a Catholic dynasty; fears confirmed when the baby was baptised
into the Roman faith.
VII of Scotland and II of England
the end of June a small group of peers made the fateful decision to invite
William of Orange, James's son-in-law, to "defend the liberties of
England". William prepared carefully, assembling a formidable army of
multinational mercenaries in Holland. In November he landed at Torbay, at the
head of 15,000 men. Cleverly, he made no public claim to the crown, saying only
that he had come to England to save Protestantism. James, meanwhile, marched
west with his small but well trained army. But to his dismay he found his troops
deeply discontented and unwilling to fight.
Salisbury there were mass desertions, and the king turned tail for London. Even
then, James had hopes of retaining his throne, but his nerve failed him. He made
for the Kent coast, was turned back by magistrates at Faversham, and was forced
to sail from London. Finally, on Christmas Day 1688, he landed in France and
from there he moved onto Ireland. William moved swiftly to neutralise the royal
army and establish a provisional government. In January 1689 a hastily summoned
Parliament declared the throne vacant. In February William and Mary - the
daughter of King James - jointly acceded. The second English revolution of the
century had been accomplished without violence.
put an end to the House of Stewart which had ruled over Scotland for over 300
years and England, Scotland and Ireland for eighty six years. James and his son
Charles tried to reclaim the crown in the Jacobite risings of 1689, 1715 and
1745, but were unsuccessful. The ''Glorious Revolution" had taken place and
the William, the new King was persuaded by his advisors, principally William
Carstares, a Scottish minister who had become a friend of William in Holland to
accept Presbyterianism as the established church in Scotland. In the year 1690,
therefore Parliament met and passed an act which re-established Presbyterianism
in Scotland and to this day the Church of Scotland remains a Presbyterian Church.
House of Stewart had maintained they had been appointed kings by God and
not by the people, but in dethroning James the people had claimed the right to
appoint their own kings. For this time onwards, therefore, it came to be
understood that kings would be allowed to remain on the throne only if they
governed according to the laws of the land. After the revolution the kings could
make no changes in the laws without the consent of the Parliament. Thus after
James was dethroned a new day dawned, both in England and Scotland.
most of the Covenanters rejoined the established church, there were a good
number throughout the country who wished to remain apart. They established the
Reformed Presbyterian Church. Similarly, the followers of the Rev Richard
Cameron formed the 26th Regiment of Foot in May 1689, better known as the
"Cameronians". Cameron had been killed in battle by dragoons commanded by
Andrew Bruce of Earlshall in the Battle of Airds Moss near Cumnock, Ayrshire in July 1680.
Sixty three Covenanters had taken to the Moss for safety and they were pursued
by 112 soldiers. The Covenanters stood their ground and fought valiantly, nine
being killed against twenty eight of the regular troops, but eventually they
were overcome by the more experienced soldiers. The mutilated body of Cameron was buried there along with
the other eight of his supporters who fell. A thundercloud passed over and under
cover of heavy rain and mist many Covenanters managed to escape. Bruce persuaded
one of his soldiers to allow him the pleasure of hacking Cameron's head and
hands from his body, taking his trophies to Edinburgh in order to claim the
£500 bounty. Two Covenanters later died of wounds suffered in the battle and
six more were apprehended by soldiers and hung for their part in the battle.
slab of Richard Cameron and eight other Covenanters
Regiment, subsequently numbered the 26th Foot was raised in 1689 and was later
linked with the Perthshire Light Infantry, the 90th of Foot which were raised in
1794 in the Lowlands of Perthshire by Thomas Graham, later to become Lord
Lynedoch. The Cameronians served with distinction in every campaign
undertaken by the British Army until May 1968, not least the terrible battle at
Neuve Chapelle in Belgium in 1916. The Regiment had a reputation of being a unit
of fierce and loyal fighting men. In WWII it saw action in Burma, Sicily, Italy
and marched across Europe from Normandy to the Baltic. The regiment marched
at double time to the tune of the 'Black Bear' and wore tartan trousers and belt
as part of their uniform. Each new recruit always received a bible upon joining
as a reminder of the regiment's 17th century origins.
1815 James and William Murdoch, of Hill Road, Stonehouse enlisted in the 26th
Cameronians to fight Napoleon. At the Battle of Waterloo they were mortally
wounded and whilst dying on the battle field they wrote their names on the fly
leaf of a bible with the only medium available to them, their own blood.
more recent times the Regiment served in Trieste, Germany, Jordan, Kenya and
Aden and took part in operations in Malaya and the Arabian Peninsula. They recruited principally in the Lanarkshire and
the south of Scotland area and many local men
brought great honour to the regiment. Twelve of its serving soldiers won
the 'Victoria Cross', the highest honour to be bestowed for bravery by the
British armed forces. King George V felt very strongly that the decoration
should never be forfeited. In a letter written by his Private Secretary, Lord
Stamfordham, on 26th July 1920, his views are forcibly expressed: "The
King feels so strongly that, no matter the crime committed by anyone on whom the
VC has been conferred, the decoration should not be forfeited. Even were a VC to
be sentenced to be hanged for murder, he should be allowed to wear his VC medal on the
in the early 19th Century
Their regimental barracks were in Hamilton until 1941 and then
Winston Barracks in Lanark. As part of government defence
cuts, the Regiment (26th and 90th) chose to disband rather than amalgamate with another lowland
regiment. The disbanding ceremony took place in 1968 at
a special conventicle held at Douglas in Lanarkshire, where they had been raised
279 years earlier. A monument now exists there to mark this occasion. The
Cameronians Regimental Museum is located at Mote Hill off Muir Street, Hamilton.
Seven Victoria Crosses reside with this museum.
Graham of Claverhouse
a postscript, you may be wondering what became of John Graham of Claverhouse. He
was awarded the title of Viscount Dundee, and in 1689 he raised an army of highland
men on behalf of James VII who was now in Ireland plotting a comeback. The
rigid, intolerant government of the Presbyterians was not to the taste of the
mainly Catholic highlanders. The establishment class were also horrified by the
thought of the dethronement of the last in a line of at least 100 Scottish
kings. The royalists marched on
Killiecrankie in Perthshire, where a battle took place on 27th July.
"Bonnie Dundee's" forces numbered between 1,800 and 2,000 men, he was outnumbered by almost
two to one by government troops. Nevertheless, his men were victorious in the battle against the
soldiers under General McKay, who retreated across the River Garry, one of them
famously leaping the rocky chasm. Claverhouse however had been mortally wounded
by a gunshot and his body was stripped of armour and clothing. A soldier found
the corpse the following day and, wrapping it in a plaid, took it to the kirk at
Old Blair, near to Blair Atholl where it was buried. Despite the fact that the
day belonged to the Jacobites, Bonnie Dundee's now leaderless uprising soon petered out into a
series of minor skirmishes.
John Graham of Claverhouse, known as 'Bloody Clavers'
50 years the
non-conformist Covenanters had been fined, tortured, flogged, branded or
executed without trial for failing to turn up to hear the "King's
Curates" in the pulpit. One famous observer of the times, Daniel Defoe, the
author of "Robinson Crusoe" estimated
that 18,000 had died for their adherence to the Covenant. Of those
that lived, many had been sold as slaves to America or sent to the dungeons on Bass
Rock or Dunottar Castle. Those who escaped sought refuge in Holland and
England. The cause still rings out on many martyr graves scattered throughout
the South West as follows: "For the word of God and Scotland's work of Reformation.
Scotland's heritage comes at a price which invokes our greatest heart felt
thanks for the lives sacrificed on the anvil of persecution, when innocent blood
stained the heather on our moors and ran down the gutters of our streets with
sorrow and sighing beyond contemplation".
on the Drumclog Monument
all over Scotland have tombstones to victims of the years of Covenanting
persecution, but no area is as rich in them as the south-west corner of
Scotland, particularly the counties of Ayr, Lanark, Kirkcudbright and Dumfries,
where virtually every Parish Kirkyard contains at least one Covenanter's grave.
Many more are to be seen on the moors and hills which the Covenanters were
forced to frequent, the bodies of the shot hill-men being buried where they
fell, for burying the body in the Kirkyard could result in another death. If the
authorities learnt that a murdered Covenanter had been given a decent burial,
their bodies were usually disinterred and buried in places reserved in places
for thieves and malcontents. Quite often the corpse was hanged or beheaded
of the most well known martyrs' resting place is in Hamilton old Kirkyard where
there is a tombstone to the "Heads of John Parker, Gavin Hamilton, James
Hamilton and Christopher Strang, who suffered at Edinburgh, Decr 7th 1666"
passenger, take notice what thou reads;
Edinburgh lie our bodies, here our heads,
right hands stood at Lanark, these we want,
with them we swore the Covenant.
Hamilton Martyrs Monument
above Covenanters were captured at the battle at Rullion Green. After hanging at
Edinburgh, their heads were despatched to Hamilton and their right hands sent to
the tollbooth in Lanark. This was the location only weeks earlier, on the march
to Edinburgh where they had re-sworn the covenant along with their comrades.
Covenanter's tombstone in the Kirkyard of Galston, Ayrshire commemorates Andrew
Richmond, "who was killed by f of Claver-House, June
1679". The inscription shows the victim, pointing at an open Bible, while a soldier is taking aim with a rifle,
a sword hanging round his waist, and a steel helmet upon his head. Between the
two is an hourglass.
of a dying Covenanter (artist unknown)
Ayr there is a headstone to seven martyrs who were executed in the town as a
warning to the townspeople of what would happen if they joined in any of the
uprisings. The men were not of the county but were brought there and hanged as
an example, the same happening in Dumfries and elsewhere. There were originally
eight men to be hanged, but the burgh hangman disappeared, and the hangman
brought from Irvine refused to do it, even under threat of torture. Therefore
the authorities announced that one of the men could go free if he agreed to hang
the remaining seven. Cornelius Anderson agreed, only if his associates would
offer him forgiveness. This was forthcoming, and following the execution
Anderson emigrated to Ireland, where he died insane.
number of Covenanters' graves to be seen in the Kirkyards of southern Scotland
is far too numerous to be mentioned here. Suffice to say that they are all
recorded in various books, particularly old guidebooks, and are usually well
known by the locals, who will easily direct an inquisitive visitor to them.
Those wishing to find out more about the many graves which can still be seen
should read Horne and Hardie's "In the Steps of the Covenanters",
which lists all graves and monuments, with short details on how to reach them.
Alternatively, join the Scottish Covenanter Memorials Association, which cares for those
monuments and gravestones. Contact is the Honarary Secretary; Mr Dane Love, Lochnoran
House, Auchinleck, Ayrshire, KA18 3JW
headstone at Kilmarnock Parish Church
"Here lie the Heads of John Ross and John Shields who suffered at Edinburgh Dec
27th 1666 and had their heads set up at Kilmarnock"
wild traditioned Scotland, thy briery burns and braes
Are full of pleasant memories and tales of other days.
Thy story-haunted waters in music gush along,
Thy mountain-glens are tragedies, thy heathy hills are song.
Land of the Bruce and Wallace, where patriot hearts have stood:
And for their country and their faith like water poured their blood;
Where wives and little children were steadfast to the death,
And graves of martyr'd warriors are in the desert heath.."
Are full of pleasant memories and tales of other days.
Thy story-haunted waters in music gush along,
Thy mountain-glens are tragedies, thy heathy hills are song.
Land of the Bruce and Wallace, where patriot hearts have stood:
And for their country and their faith like water poured their blood;
Where wives and little children were steadfast to the death,
And graves of martyr'd warriors are in the desert heath.."
These various covenants were eclipsed in interest and importance by another of 1581, sometimes called ‘The King’s Confession’ and sometimes ‘The Second Confession of Faith’, which vigorously denounced Romish corruptions and clarified Protestant doctrine. The dread inspired by the approach of the Spanish Armada in 1588 moved King James VI and ‘divers of his Estates’ to enter into another covenant known as ‘The General Band’, and during the next four or five years, still further covenants concerning the King, country and religion saw the light. More important, however, from the spiritual standpoint was a covenant promoted by the General Assembly of the Scottish Kirk in 1596, for this made the Little Kirk of Edinburgh a very Bochim, the like of which had not been seen in Scotland since the Reformation.
A new and ominous factor in political and religious life appeared during the early 17th Century. It had not been entirely absent during the late 16th Century, but after James VI’s accession to the English throne in 1603 as James I, it increased in strength and importance, and ere long resulted in a long drawn-out campaign between Episcopacy and Presbyterianism. The first two Stuart kings of England accepted wholeheartedly the pattern of Episcopal church government as found in Scotland’s southern neighbour, and Charles I in particular, urged on by Canterbury’s infamous Archbishop William Laud, determined to make Scotland bow willy-nilly to the Episcopal yoke. Came the tremendous storm of July, 1637, the ominous stool-throwing by Jenny Geddes, with the cry, ‘Will ye read that book [the Prayer Book] in my lug?’, the signing of the highly significant National Covenant in Greyfriars Church and Churchyard, the two Bishop’s Wars extending to 1641, and, in general, the revolt of an entire nation against its rulers. The underlying cause was spiritual rather than political. A nation had queried the claim by a monarch to determine the form of government of a national church, and had fired a cannon whose sound reverberated to the farthest Hebrides.
The National Covenant of 1638, THE outstanding covenant of Scottish History, declared the firm determination of its Presbyterian authors and subscribers to resist to the death the claims of the King and his minions to override the Crown Rights of the Redeemer in His Kirk. It is a formidable document indeed, bristling with references to former Acts of Parliament in typical legal fashion. It gives high honour to the eternal God and His most holy Word; demands the faithful preaching of that Word, the due and right ministration of the sacraments, the abolishing of all false religion, and the rooting out of the king’s empire of all heretics and enemies to the worship of God, on conviction ‘by the true Kirk of God’. The subscribers further say that they fear neither ‘the foul aspersions of rebellion, combination, or what else our adversaries from their craft and malice would put upon us, seeing what we do is so well warranted, and ariseth from an unfeigned desire to maintain the true worship of God, the majesty of our King, and the peace of the kingdom, for the common happiness of ourselves and our posterity’. They pledge themselves as in the sight of God to ‘be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness, and righteousness, and of every duty we owe to God and man’.
The Covenant draws to a close with the following statement: ‘That this our union and conjunction may be observed without violation, we call the LIVING GOD, THE SEARCHER OF OUR HEARTS, to witness, who knoweth this to be our sincere desire and unfeigned resolution, as we shall answer to Jesus Christ in the great day, and under the pain of God’s everlasting wrath, and of infamy and loss of all honour and respect in this world: most humbly beseeching the LORD to strengthen us by His HOLY SPIRIT for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings with a happy success; that religion and righteousness may flourish in the land, to the glory of GOD, the honour of our King, and peace and comfort of us all’.
The Kirk of Scotland had spoken; let the King and the Archbishop tremble. The King, however, chose to follow his own pre-determined policy and such devices as Laud could invent. Meanwhile his troubles in his realm of England reached their desperate climax. Civil War commenced in the summer of 1642 and Scotland and the English Long Parliament came into close co-operation. In the opinion of both alike, absolute monarchy was threatening the true interests of the children of God and the unique Lordship of the King of kings, and must be resisted at all costs. Within a year came the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant by the two peoples, in which the Convention of Scottish Estates, with the approval of the General Assembly of the Kirk, undertook to give the English Parliament military aid against the King, while the English Parliament on its part undertook to establish and enforce Presbyterianism in England and to meet the expenses of a Scottish army operating in England.
The events of the Civil War and Commonwealth periods we need not here discuss. Oliver Cromwell, ‘the great Independent’, emerged from the period of conflict as a semi-dictator; Scotland and England fell apart, not without war, only to be brought together again politically by the union of Parliaments which England enforced after its military triumph. But England as a nation soon tired of Puritan domination and in 1660 the son of Charles returned to rule England and Scotland as Charles II; he claimed to be in the eleventh year of his reign.
The new king’s conscience was exceedingly pliable. In 1650, a year and a half after his father’s execution, when he was using all endeavours to recover the two thrones, he had offered to subscribe and swear the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant, and actually did so on the 23rd June. A month later he had accepted the Dunfermline Declaration, in which he deplored his father’s opposition to the work of religious Reformation, confessed his mother’s [Henrietta Maria’s] Popish idolatry, professed his own sincerity and detestation of all ‘Popery, superstition and idolatry, together with Prelacy’ and all other errors and heresies, and announced his determination not to tolerate them in any part of his dominions. If royal promises are good, the outlook for Scotland, not to say England, was bright with hope. At a Coronation ceremony at Scone on New Year’s Day, 1651, Charles renewed his oath and subscription to the 1638 and 1643 covenants. But the word of the son was no more reliable than that of the father, and when Charles found that he could not stand against the power of the English New Model army on the embattled field and that it was necessary for him to ‘go on his travels again’, he soon abandoned his solemn vows and drowned the voice of his conscience in the wine of forgetfulness.
The Restoration of Charles II in 1660 soon led to a full display of the King’s perfidy and marked the commencement of the Covenanter Period proper. The fair promises contained in the Declaration of Breda in 1659 were virtually annulled by the astute Edward Hyde (Lord Clarendon), now acting as the lord chancellor of England, who contrived the inclusion of a qualification in each Royal concession, to the effect that the king would agree to whatsoever Parliament proposed on each point of the Declaration. In this fashion Charles could make pretence of yielding to Parliament’s desires while making sure, in the devious ways open to his ministers, that those desires were to all intents and purposes his own.
Acts of Parliament shortly restored the royal prerogative and supremacy in matters of religion. The National Covenant of 1638 and the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 were condemned as high treason, and henceforward it became perilous to adhere to them or to speak with approval of them. Simultaneously came the news to Scotland that the King was set upon restoring prelacy in full strength and vigour. An obsequious Parliament at Edinburgh passed an Act to give effect to this resolve. In the preamble of the Act it was asserted that the king possessed an ‘inherent right’, ‘by virtue of his royal prerogative and supremacy in causes ecclesiastical’, to legislate for the Kirk. The current oath of allegiance to the Crown tied all who took it to the same principle, namely, that whatever power the King claimed in Church and State was his of divine right.
Nor was this the limit of the matter. The evil system of patronage which had been abolished in 1649 was restored. This meant that patron and bishop, and no others, had authority in the presentation of ministers to livings. All ministers who had entered upon a living since 1649 but had not obtained such presentation were required to quit their parishes. Between three and four hundred men were thus sequestered.
In 1649, by Royal Prerogative, the Court of High Commission, which, together with the Star Chamber, had been Archbishop Laud’s notorious instrument of repression, was again set up, with power to determine all aspects of Church policy. These measures gave the bishops legal authority to hunt down all who refused to conform to their demands. Non-conformists - and all true Covenanters were such - were savagely persecuted during the next twenty-five years. Simultaneously, English Puritans who failed to conform to the requirements of the Clarendon Code [1661-65] were harassed and scourged, though certainly with much less actual brutality than the Scots. The Huguenots of France were also soon to experience all the ferocity of a fanatical king and church. But the war that was now waged against Scottish Covenanters with a similar intensity pre-dated Huguenot troubles by almost at quarter of a century. If French Protestants suffered the rigour of the ‘dragonades’ in the ‘eighties, the Covenanters met with similar woes, and even more tragic, in the ‘sixties. Hunted mercilessly by the dragoons, some of them believed it right to meet force with force. Hence such encounters as those of Rullion Green [November 1666], Drumclog and Bothwell Bridge [both in June 1679], and Airds Moss [July 1680]. The murder of Archbishop Sharp of St Andrews in 1679 further illustrates the state of desperation reached by a small section of the covenanting party. A larger number were willing to abide, not only in the kingdom, but also in the patience of Jesus Christ, and to wait prayerfully and courageously for the dawn of better days.
Many who could not be charged with the breach of any law were asked if they owned the King’s authority. If they disowned it, they stood self-condemned; if they qualified their submission by distinguishing between Church and State, or if they declined to give their opinion, they were deemed equally guilty of treason. But, as Alexander Shields, the author of A Hind Let Loose, says: ‘The more they (ie the authorities) insisted in this inquisition, the more did the number of witnesses multiply, with a growing increase of undaunted ness, so that the then shed blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church; and as, by hearing and seeing them so signally countenanced of the Lord, many were reclaimed from their courses of compliance, so others were daily more and more conformed in the ways of the Lord, and so strengthened by His grace that they chose rather to endure all torture and embrace death in its most terrible aspect, than to give the tyrant and his complices any acknowledgment, yea not so much as to say, God save the King, which was offered as the price of their life’.
Readers of the tragic story may thus be assured that the refusal of firm Covenanters to say ‘God save the King’ was not the result of any lack of true civil loyalty to ‘the powers that be are ordained of God’, but solely the result of an enlightened conscience which refused to give to man, no matter how highly exalted in office he might be, the honour due to the Lord’s Anointed. When such persons as the Solway martyrs [‘the two Margarets’] refused to say ‘God save the King’, it was because of the meaning given to the expression by men in authority. Its use was tantamount to confessing that the King was supreme earthly ruler in the Church of God. The Covenanters chose death rather than life when impaled on the horns of that dreadful dilemma.
Shield’s book, A Hind Let Loose, first printed in Holland in 1687, is a defence of the Covenanters. It expounds the belief that the King, thou high in rank and office, is ‘inferior to the people’ whom he governs, and that their interests must take precedence over his. Ideally their interests are the same, but when the King shows himself a tyrant and a usurper of the rights of the Kirk, not to say of Christ the Head of the Kirk, ERGO [one of Shield’s favourite words], he is to be resisted. Furthermore, if he is or becomes a Papist, how can he rule agreeably to the mind of God? The matter is argued with a vast abundance of Biblical illustration, and with much reference to Reformation and Puritan divines. It should be consulted, if practicable, by all who wish fully to understand the inner spirit of the Covenanting Movement.
In the ultimate issue the question at stake, in all its stark nakedness, was whether a temporal monarch or the Lord Jesus Christ was to be ‘Head over all things to the Church’. To faithful Covenanters only one answer was possible, and whether their problems concerned individuals, families, conventicles, or general assemblies, they urged with fierce and unshakable tenacity that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. No suffering could be too great to endure in such a cause. The scaffold could not daunt them; instruments of torture could not make them quail; the sufferings and discomforts of cave or moor or prison-cell could not move them to act and speak against conscience. Behind and above covenants subscribed with their hands and witnessed to by their hearts, and in an even truer sense subscribed in their blood, was ‘the everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure’, itself sealed with the blood of the Mediator, and itself the pattern of all lesser covenants. Faith gave buoyancy to the Covenanters’ resolution; hope was the anchor of their souls; the love of Christ shed abroad in their hearts ever spurred them on to do and to suffer; ‘outside the camp’ they bore His reproach; and before them ever loomed large ‘the recompense of the reward’ and the gates of the city of God.
The ‘Killing Time’ eventually gave place to toleration and freedom. The overthrow of King James II and the establishment of William and Mary on the throne brought liberty and enlargement. But whether faith and hope and love shone as brightly in Scottish hearts in the velvety days ahead as in the grim days which produce the Covenanting Movement, let those judge who can.
I would like to divide this paper into three parts. First of all, the times and the seasons in which John Livingstone lived. Secondly, the events in his own life. And thirdly, an assessment of his contribution to the life of the Scottish Church and the relevance of that contribution to our own day.
1. The Times and Seasons in which John Livingstone lived
James VIWe go right back to 1603, which was the year Queen Elizabeth the 1st of England died; and she died childless, which meant that James VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, became King not only of Scotland, but of England also - an event that came to be known as the Union of the Crowns.
So he quickly made his way to England, and the first major event that you find in his Kingship there was the calling of what became known as the Hampton Court Conference, a conference of ecclesiastics in England. One of the good things that came out of that conference was the translation that we know of as the Authorised Version. You see the name of King James in the preface to that Bible. But at that conference, he made quite clear that the religious group that he was siding with and throwing all his kingly authority behind was that of the Anglican Church, the Episcopal Church in England; much to the grief of the Puritans of England.
To understand James's mind, we have to realise that he believed in what is known as 'the Divine Right of Kings'. He believed that kings were appointed by God, and being appointed and anointed by God, that they had authority to rule in both the State and Church as they liked; that they could live as tyrants and despots in the land. Now that was a philosophy that was going to bring the Stuart Kings, particularly his son, Charles I, into head-on collision with both Parliament in England, and the Church in Scotland. And indeed, it was to eventuate in a bloody civil war in England, in which Scotland also took part; a civil war between the King's side, known as 'the Cavaliers', and the Parliamentary side, which became known as 'the Roundheads'. And not only did it eventuate in a civil war that lasted some three years, but it eventuated in the King, Charles I, being executed in 1649, and thereafter a dictatorship being established under the rule of Oliver Cromwell. But it is important to remember that James and Charles believed in the Divine Right of Kings, and that meant that they ruled despotically in both Church and State. That is why at the Hampton Court Conference he was so keen to show partiality to the Episcopal Church, because the Episcopal Church, with its hierarchical structure of Vicars, and bishops, and Archbishops, and then the King as the Head of the Church, appealed to him. It meant that he had authority over the Church, and that fitted in with his philosophy that the Kings rule.
No bishop, no kingThe saying, "No bishop, no king" was something that he enunciated very often. He was wont to declare it, that no Bishop, no Church of England with its hierarchical structure: there won't be a King. And therefore he was going to support the Anglican side. Now, he wanted to do the same thing in Scotland. He knew that Scotland was going to be a more difficult nut to crack than England, as far as the Church was concerned. Before he had left Scotland in 1603, he had come into frequent head-on collision with Scottish clerics, and you have probably heard of his famous encounter with Andrew Melville, who on one occasion spoke to him these words:
"Sir, we will humbly reverence your majesty in public, but since we have occasion to be with you in private, we must discharge our duty therein or else be traitors both to Christ and you. And therefore, Sir, as divers times before, so now again I must tell you, there are two kings in Scotland: there is Christ Jesus the King, and his kingdom the Kirk, whose subject King James the Sixth is, and of whose kingdom he is not a king, nor a lord, but a member."He was reminding him that the Head of the Church is Christ, and that its Christ through His Word and the rule of His Word, who governs the Church, not the king. The king as a secular ruler, yes receives reverence as such, but he mustn't interfere in the spiritual arena, where Christ is the Head.
So, James knew that he would run into difficulties if he were to try to introduce an Anglican structure in Scotland, which would have insisted that the King should be the Head of the Church. The Presbyterian system was directly counter to that. But James was crafty: he has come down to history by the name of the wisest fool in Christendom, but I don't think he really deserved that title. He was shrewd and crafty; he sometimes used corrupt methods; he was prepared to back off when things were going against him, and then come again. And in that sort of way, he slowly got his way in Scotland, and soon Bishops were being established within the Scottish Church. Indeed, they were being given considerable influence in the Church of Scotland.
A significant landmark in that Episcopising programme in Scotland came in 1618 with what was known as 'the Five Articles of Perth'. Now these Articles required that the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ be received while kneeling. They required that it might be administered to the sick privately. That baptism should be administered in private houses where necessary; that children eight years of age should be presented to the Bishop for Confirmation; and that the Birth, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord, and the sending of the Holy Ghost [ie: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost] should be commemorated on the days appointed. Surprise has often been expressed at the opposition which these Articles encountered, but it ought to be realised that the first three in particular were in direct contradiction to the sacramental doctrine and practice of the Reformed Churches.
Charles IIn 1625, James died and was succeeded by his son Charles I. He was a handsome and very courageous man, but he lacked his father's diplomatic skills. Where his father would have backed off, and then come again, Charles didn't have that knack: he was high-handed in his methods. And these high-handed and arrogant methods of his bred suspicion as to his intentions, and earned him the suspicion of many and the gratitude of none. It wasn't till 1635, ten years after his coronation, that he deigned fit to visit the kingdom of Scotland at all; and in his train he brought William Laud, soon to become Archbishop of Canterbury, and already the King's chief advisor in ecclesiastical matters. The Abbey Church of Holyrood was furnished for the occasion for the coronation, with altars and candles under the direction of Laud.
In 1636 there appeared a book entitled 'Canons and Constitutions Ecclesiastical, for the Government of the Church of Scotland'. These were published by authority of his majesty, and command was given that all invested with ecclesiastical authority ensure that these were observed. The first chapter in these canons contained the rule that all are to suffer excommunication who deny the King's supremacy in matters ecclesiastical. And its assumed that the king has the right, without any consent from the Church whatever, to impose a constitution and rules upon the Church of Scotland as he wills. The canons in the main dealt with the life and work of the clergy, and the conduct of church services. Regulations regarding the placing of baptismal fonts and communion tables were perceived as marking a return to Papal liturgy.
The Book of Canons was followed by the Book of Common Prayer. This was perceived to be an attempt to impose Anglo-Catholicism on the Church of Scotland. Commonly known as Laud's Liturgy, because he was the one who was behind it, it was to be the spark that would kindle a consuming fire in Scotland. And soon the whole country was in ferment. The people declared that the King had no right to impose a liturgy of that nature without the consent of the Church or of the Parliament. And they declared that the service book was Popish, that it taught baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation, the adoration and worship of the consecrated elements, and was little better than a Mass-book.
So, in July 1637, when the Dean of St Giles in Edinburgh, clad in a white surplice, began to read the service for the day from the new prayer book, a scene of uproar and confusion ensued. In the midst of this confusion, an old woman by the name of Jenny Geddes hurled her stool at the head of the unfortunate Dean, with the cry, "Dost thou say Mass at my lug?"
The National CovenantThat ferment culminated in the signing of the National Covenant in 1638. Popular support for this document was strong throughout the country, except in Aberdeen and the Highlands. Aberdeen had always been partial to Anglicanism, and the Highlands were strongly Papal at that time. But it was signed in every other part of the country with great support - and many signed it with their blood - and by doing so they were declaring their readiness,
"to resist the innovations and evils recently introduced into the Kirk to the ruin of the true Reformed religion, and of our liberties, and of our laws and estates. And to maintain and preserve a true religion, and public peace of the kingdom."Now, a General Assembly met very soon afterwards at Glasgow in November of 1638 - it became known as a reforming Assembly. It was strongly Presbyterian, and strongly opposed to these innovations. It sought really to do nothing short of the abolition of that Episcopal order, and voted that "all Episcopacy different from that of a Pastor over a particular flock was abjured in this Kirk, and to be removed out of it."
Now Charles couldn't back off at that stage. His father might have, but Charles wouldn't. And in the eyes of the King the Covenanters were now rebels to be reduced to obedience by force of arms. He threatened to come up against them, and as a defensive action the Scots forces passed into England on two occasions during those years. Not much action took place, but these forays into England became known as "the Bishops' Wars". They were significant as showing the strength of feeling in Scotland against the King's policy.
The focus then switched to England. The 'Divine Right of Kings' policy was leading the King not only into conflict with the Church in Scotland, but it was leading him into head-on collision with the Parliament in England. By this time, it was inevitable that a struggle between King and Parliament would come about, and that civil war would come into it. Indeed, that started in August 1642, when the King raised a standard at Nottingham. It was difficult for the Scots to decide what they were to do about this war. They weren't republicans, and opposed to the King on any republican grounds; but it was difficult to support the King because of his outright determination to uproot what they loved so much, the Presbyterian system of government in the Church, that they had inherited from men like John Knox, and Wishart, some century before. And although they were not republican they found themselves being drawn to the English side: they found that they had more in common with them on the ecclesiastical front. Although there were differences between the Presbyterians of Scotland and the Puritans of England, there were more things that united them than divided them.
The Solemn League and CovenantThere began to be talk between the two sides as to how they could best bring about some sort of unity of a united Church: a Church united with the one doctrine for the whole of the United Kingdom. That brought the Scots Covenanters and the English Parliamentarians to become allies, and this talk that developed between them began to take firm form in what became known as 'the Solemn League and Covenant', which was an agreement that they would work towards this end of having some sort of unity of doctrine and have unity within the Church. The hope was that the churches in England and Scotland would reach a common Confession, and a common form of worship and church government.
The upshot of that was the famous Westminster Assembly of Divines, from Scotland and England, who drew up the reformed documents which we know today as the Directory for Public Worship, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism and the Larger Catechism, which set forth in the clearest of terms the main tenets of Biblical Calvinism. And so the Scots Covenanters and English Parliamentarians were drawn together on that front; and therefore you found the Scots playing a part in the civil war on the Parliamentary side. So as a result of the signing of this document, the Covenanting army marched again into England, and their cavalry contributed materially to the Parliamentary victory on Marston Moor in July 1644. And from that point on, the tide of war was going very much in favour of the Roundheads, the Parliamentary side. And in the end, victory accrued to them, and poor King Charles was executed in 1649. It is said of him that nothing became him in this life, like the leaving of it: he showed great courage at his execution.
I've no doubt the news of the way that he met his death added to the indignation that was felt throughout Scotland. Scotland had never been against the King on any republican grounds and the Covenanters didn't want to have him put to death, and there was great indignation in Scotland at this. As soon as the news reached Edinburgh his son, who was then in exile in Holland, was proclaimed King as Charles II. Commissioners were sent to invite him to Scotland on condition that he would accept the National Covenant, and all that it implied. To proclaim Charles as King was as good as a declaration of war on the English Parliamentarians and the English Commonwealth, and Cromwell marched north and in 1650 he gained a resounding victory over the Scots at Dunbar.
Charles II was, however, crowned at Scone in 1651, but support for him quietly fizzled out, and soon the Cromwellian commonwealth completed the conquest. But for all that, in 1660 you find the monarchy being restored. People had become tired of republicanism in Britain in that short time, and the King was restored as not only the King of Scotland, but the King of England in 1660. This was something that was going to have significant effect in the life of John Livingstone.
These are the main events of his time, and we come now to consider John Livingstone's life.
2. John Livingstone's Life
His YouthHe was born in 1603, which was the year of the Union of the Crowns. He was born in Kilsyth, a son of the manse. His father was a minister, as his grandfather had been a minister before him. His mother, Agnes, had also been a Livingstone prior to her marriage, and she was a pious woman. So, the Livingstones who had a family of seven (three sons and four daughters) had a godly home, and in that home young John and his brothers and sisters were taught from their youth the rudiments of Scriptural truth. It was a home where prayer was wont to be made, and to which came, especially at Communion Seasons, godly men and women from throughout central Scotland.
John was taught the three 'R's: reading, writing and arithmetic at home. In 1610, at the age of seven, he was sent to school in Stirling, and there he showed himself an able pupil, he had a good measure of proficiency in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. From his early youth he was the subject of regenerating grace: strivings of the Spirit with him from a very young age, although interestingly he could never produce a spiritual birth certificate: he couldn't say the moment when he was born again, when he passed from death to life.
Early ProfessionHe made a public profession of faith in Christ for the first time while he was still at school in Stirling, at about 12 to 14 years of age. 1617 and 1618 were significant years in his young life. He left school in 1617, and it was also the year of his mother's death, at the tender age of 32, having reared a family of seven.
Something else that was significant at time, as we have noticed, were the Five Articles of Perth, which were published at that time. These Articles caused him no pleasure, but rather the opposite, for about that time he entered college in Glasgow. In his autobiography he refers to a communion service held there in Glasgow, presided over by Mr James Law (they didn't use the title of Rev in those days), and he describes him as the 'pretended Bishop of Glasgow'. This Bishop of Glasgow presided, and Mr Law called on the communicants to kneel (remember that this was one of the articles in the Five Articles of Perth), or if they were not willing to do so, that they should depart.
John Livingstone, young though he was, refused to do either of these claiming that there was no warrant from Scripture for kneeling, and that for want of that authority he ought not to be communicated from the Table of the Lord. So as early as that you see his strong opposition to Anglican ways, and Anglican rituals, and Anglican doctrines, and especially any encroachment on the authority of Christ by the king. He saw these rituals as being gateways towards the encroachment on that authority. And so, you have a non-conformist young man appearing in very concrete form as early as 1618, in his opposition to these articles.
First LaboursHe went to Glasgow college about that time, and graduated from college in Glasgow in 1621, at the age of 18. At first he was uncertain as to which profession he should enter, but in the end he decided for the ministry. By 1625 he had successfully completed the necessary studies in preparation for the ministry of the Gospel, but owing to his staunch anti-Episcopalian views, which drew the opposition of influential Bishops, he met with difficulty in being settled into a charge. He went some five years without having a settled charge of his own, and during that time he served where he could. He served as a private chaplain for part of that time to the Earl of Wigton, and he preached when invited in other churches. Many godly ministers wanted him to preach for them, and by reason of going from congregation to congregation in that way, he came to know some of the godliest ministers and people in Scotland at that time, and his own preaching was in turn widely blessed.
One notable sermon was preached by him during this time, in 1630 on a Monday morning of the Communion Season in the parish of Shotts, which was reputedly blessed in the conversion of some 500 souls. Shortly after that, in the same year, he at last received a call to the congregation of Killinchy, not in Scotland but in Northern Ireland. He accepted that call and on 29th August he received ordination from Andrew Knox, admittedly a Bishop, but one who was prepared to fit in with the scruples held by this young minister. So he received ordination from Andrew Knox, who as a Presbyter joined several ministers in conferring upon him Presbyterian orders, thus obviating Livingstone's scruples as to the Scriptural validity of Prelatical orders under the government of Bishops.
IrelandHis ministry in that district of Ireland was very successful and many received, through his means, religious impressions. He had been scarcely a year at Killinchy, however, until he was suspended by another Bishop much more rigorous in his outlook. Suspended for non-conformity and "stirring up the people to extasies and enthusiasms". Although this suspension was later relaxed, his ministry at Killinchy was soon effectively brought to an end, when in 1632 he was deposed from the ministry.
One compensating brightness in his life at this time was his marriage in 1635 to Miss Fleming. Strangely, he doesn't give her first name in his autobiography, and we are left in the dark as to what her first name was. But this must have been a bright spot in his life. She was the daughter of an Edinburgh merchant, and one who had been a staunch Presbyterian. Their early days of marriage were taken up with plans, alongside other godly men in Scotland and England, to make a voyage to New England where, like the Pilgrim Fathers a short time before them, they hoped to be able to worship God and to practice their religion without fear of persecution. That is what they were brought to.
It was not God's will, however, that these plans should come to fruition. When they made the voyage with the intent of coming to New England, they encountered stormy seas off Newfoundland, which damaged their vessel and threatened to engulf them, so that they were compelled to return to their native shores. He had invested a lot of money in that voyage, and now was much the poorer in financial terms. By this time also, his young wife had a child and it was difficult when they returned, at first to Ireland.
Return to ScotlandLearning in Ireland that a warrant was issued for his arrest, he crossed over to Scotland, and stayed there for a while. Now this was just coming into that time of ferment that culminated in the National Covenant, and Livingstone played his part in that. In 1638 he was engaged in the renovation of the National Covenant and in receiving, through various parts of the country, signatures to that deed. In the same year he was settled as minister in Stanraer. He also attended the celebrated reforming Assembly at Glasgow that year and he heartily supported its procedures and decisions. He served as a chaplain with the Scottish forces in the Bishops' Wars, these forces that crossed into England in 1639 & 40. And in 1648, by the desire of the General Assembly, he was translated from Stranraer to the parish of Ancrum in Teviotdale.
Now as an evidence of the high honour in which he was held by his colleagues, Livingstone was chosen by the General Assembly as one of the representatives to treat with the young King Charles at the Hauge, after the death of Charles I in 1649, when they wanted the younger Charles to become King Charles II. He was one of the Scottish Commissioners sent to treat with them and find out if the prospective king would agree to the signing of the Covenants, and would he agree to Presbyterian government etc. Charles was very ready to say yes to anything, but he was not to be trusted. Livingstone was one Commissioner who was a good judge of character, and he considered, quite correctly, that the young Charles was insincere in his professions, and totally unsuited and unqualified to be the ruler of the kingdom. Even when the king was ready to subscribe to the Covenants, and the other Commissioners with him expressed their full satisfaction with Charles, he continued to protest against his suitability.
Time was to show that Livingstone was the one who was right. He feared what would happen if Charles was to become King. He did become King in Scotland in 1651, and then, by the Act of Restoration, became King in England in 1660. The storms that Livingstone feared soon arose and began to blow in great intensity, on the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. By the Oath of Allegiance, ministers were required to acknowledge Episcopacy, and the rule of Bishops. Sentence was pronounced against Livingstone because he refused to do so. He was required to leave Edinburgh within 48 hours, and required to remove from the King's dominions within two months; and in 1662 he arrived at Rotterdam in the company of many faithful men, who for similar reasons were banished from their native land. He died there in Rotterdam, exiled from his native Scotland in 1672 at the age of 68. His own words were,
"I die in the faith that the truths of God, which He has helped the Church of Scotland to own, will be owned by Him as truths, as long as sun and moon endure."Well, thirdly, let us look an assessment of his contribution to the life of the Scottish Church.
3. Livingstone's contribution to the life of the Scottish Church
Concern for Christ's KirkThe first question that has to be addressed is: Was he an extremist? Some have claimed that he was unduly taken up with opposition to changes which were not of themselves, of the substance of the Gospel. He was opposed to things like kneeling at Communion services; opposed to the introduction of Laud's prayerbook, when the Scottish Church after all had had its own prayerbook before that, the Book of Common Order. But although John Livingstone was opposed to these ritualistic things, he was more opposed to what lay behind that.
What John Livingstone and others were primarily opposed to was the assault being made by James I, and then particularly by his son Charles I, on the Presbyterian system of government which had been established in Scotland, under God's hand, in the days of the Reformation, through the instrumentality of men like John Knox and Andrew Melville.
These Covenanting Scots, Livingstone and others, were indeed concerned that some of the changes that were being foisted upon Scotland were not only in direct contradiction to the sacramental doctrine and practice of the Reformed Churches, but that in some instances they smacked of Romanism. And they were particularly insistent on the doctrine that Christ alone is the Head of the Church, and they were rightly determined that no secular King should be given authority to introduce rules in the Church that were contrary to Christ's will, as that will is expressed in the Scriptures.
Intellectual AbilityAnother area that we have to consider is his intellectual capacities and abilities. In matters of church administration; church courts and so on, he seems to have been outshone by many like Henderson, Gillespie, and Rutherford, who were the Scots Commissioners at the Westminster Assembly of Divines that resulted from the Solemn League and Covenant, and these were men who made a notable contribution to the drafting of the major documents that we have already noticed. It was possibly due to Livingstone's tendency to see things in black and white; and we saw an instance of this when with the other Scottish commissioners he met young King Charles. He saw through the king and was not prepared to compromise. The others were prepared to give and take with him, but not Livingstone. That was part of his character and maybe that didn't fit him very well for the business of church administration, and certainly he didn't shine in it as highly as these other men. But having said that, he was no slouch: consider his academic attainments at school in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and then his academic attainments while at college in Glasgow as well.
His WritingsOne very useful area that he has contributed to is in his own writings: not just his autobiography, but the writings he has left to us in which he gives descriptions of other godly men of that time. His writings help us to have a more rounded picture of the ecclesiastical life of the times, and some of his writings about some of the men that he describes are well worth a read. It makes you realise the quality of godliness that characterised some of these men of Covenanting Scotland in that period of the Second Reformation as it became known.
Also, whist he in exile in Holland, he was involved in the preparation of a Latin translation of the Old Testament. He was a man of ability.
Pastoral QualitiesWhat about his pastoral qualities? Well, he was a faithful watchman over the souls of his people, and this is where he particularly shines. And for this he was greatly appreciated by the godly in their midst. A good example of that appreciation was that after he had been called to Stranraer from Killinchy in Northern Ireland, many of his former parishioners in Killinchy frequently crossed the sea to hear him in his new pulpit in Stranraer. So surely he was a pastor who was greatly loved and appreciated.
His faithfulness as a watchman is also seen in his correspondence to his parishioners, especially after he was exiled, when Charles II became King of the whole country at the Restoration. When he refused to sign the Oath of Allegiance, the result was that he was sent into exile, and spent some twelve years in exile prior to his death in Holland. But while he was in Holland, he did not forget his own congregation, and you find his letters to them showing that he was a faithful watchman still.
Here is his parting advice to his own congregation at Ancrum:
"In the meantime love and help one another. Have a care to breed your children to know the Lord, and to keep themselves from the pollutions of an evil world. I recommend to you above all books, except the blessed Word of God, the Confession of Faith and Larger Catechism. The Word is a lamp, and the Spirit of Christ will guide into all truth. The light that comes after unfeigned humiliation, and self denial, and earnest prayer, and research of the Scripture, is a sure light." [written in 1663]Another message sent by him from Rotterdam, again showing his faithfulness and attentiveness to his flock, says:
"In all things, and above all things, let the Word of God be your only rule, Christ Jesus your only hope, His Spirit your only guide, and his Glory your only end. See that each of you, apart, worship God every day, morning and evening at least. Read some of His Word, call on Him by prayer, and give Him thanks. If you be straightened with business, its not so much the length of your prayer he regards, as the uprightness and earnestness of the heart. But neglect not the duty. And if you be outside the hearing of others, utter your voice and speak it aloud. It is sometimes a great help, but do it not to be heard of others. Sing, also, a Psalm or some part of a Psalm. You may learn that by heart for that purpose. Through the whole day, labour to set the Lord always before you, as present to observe you, and strengthen you for every duty. Look over how the day has been spent before you sleep. Such as have families, set up the worship of God in your families."These are the words and the writings of a faithful pastor.
Pulpit PreparationWhat about his attitude to pulpit preparation? In his early days, when he didn't have a pulpit of his own, and was preaching sometimes in the open air, and sometimes in other minister's congregations, he used to write out his whole sermon, word for word. But pressure of business soon compelled him to change that practice, and his preferred method then became one of prayerful study and prayerful meditation on his text, and seeking to have a skeleton structure of what he wanted to say in his mind, and leaving scope for the Spirit to guide him in his utterance, when the occasion of preaching came. It is amazing that in Iain Murray's 'Diary of Kenneth MacRae', we find that Kenneth MacRae was greatly influenced by the thinking of John Livingstone in this area.
Some further interesting guidance on both sermon preparation and elocution are given by him in his writings. There is a short article entitled 'Remarks on Preaching and Praying in Public'. Here are some of his recommendations (I have tried to put them into more modern parlance):
"Don't put too much into a sermon, as too many points overtax the memory of the hearer. Avoid abstruse learning. The utterance and voice should not be like singing. We should not 'affect' a weeping-like voice. The voice should be well modulated and speech should not be too fast or too slow."
An Example of His PreachingNot many examples of his preaching are available probably because, as we've just noticed, he committed so few sermons to writing. But there is a sermon on "Remember Lot's Wife", in Luke 17:32, and here are some of the points that he makes as he addresses the question, 'What should be remembered concerning Lot's wife?'
The first point that he makes is: "Remember she was Lot's wife; a good man's wife; brought up and educated in good company. And yet, he is vexed in his own house, as well as among those filthy Sodomites. And therefore, though your good parentage and education be a mercy, yet boast not of it. And though you have lived long in a good house, what of that? May not Satan tempt you then, if you have not the root of the matter within you?"
The second point that he makes is: "Remember that she was halfway to Zoar. And Sodom burning behind her, and it may be she then thought she was past all danger, and most secure. When the angel took hold of her hand, she says, as it were, 'God be thanked, I am now past the worst of it and nearer unto heaven than I was.' The lesson for our instruction is this, that some may seem to go to heaven, may seem to be halfway there, and yet not be upon that way at all."
The third point that he makes in his sermon is: "But you may say, 'What did she?' She but looked back, and couldn't go straight on in the way with her husband, and hence you may take this lesson, that God does not account of things as we do. He accounts that a great sin, which we often account a small thing."
The fourth point is: "What moved her to look back, contrary to the Lord's express command? It was a piece of her own curiosity. We should be on our guard against idle curiosity, because what folly is often found in our heart, contrary to the will of God. Old Sodom comes into our mind again, as the case of the Israelites in the wilderness, when lusting after the onions and garlic of Egypt."
And point five, "Remember Lot's wife. Here is an extraordinary work or dispensation of God's grace, to see this woman so turned into a pillar of salt, whereby He makes one stone of another. Her heart was as hard as a stone, and so must the other parts of her body become as a stone also."
And then he completes it with this application: "Pray that this may never be your case. Moreover I may say into you who are profane professors, Remember Lot's wife. The chief thing that draws many of you away is the pride of your religion: pride of your work, gifts, profession etc. Not altogether natural pride, but the pride of you religion saying , 'this could never happen to me'. And when that self sufficiency is there, we can be very akin to Lot's wife."That is a sample of his preaching.
The Godliness of His LifeAbove all, he his to be remembered for the godliness of his life. An interesting account of the early strivings of the Spirit with him, and of his first admission to the Lord's Table is given in his autobiography:
"I don't remember the time and means whereby the Lord at first wrought upon my heart. When I was but very young, I would sometimes pray with some feeling, and read the Word with delight, but thereafter would often intermit such exercises; and have some challenges, and again begin, and again intermit. . . I remember the first time that ever I communicated at the Lord's Table. It was at Stirling when I was at school. . . While sitting at the table, and Mr Patrick Simpson exhorting before the distribution of the elements, there came such a trembling upon me that my body shook. Yet, thereafter, the fear and trembling departed and I got some comfort and assurance."These are the words of a godly man at a very young age. Then you see the godliness shining out in his call to the ministry. It wasn't something that he entered into lightly. The manner of his call to the ministry is also enlightening. After completing his course in Glasgow in 1621, he returned to his father's house in Lanark. His desire at that time was to go into medicine, and to pursue studies towards that profession in France. His father was not in favour, and had bought some lands just prior to that. He wanted to put the title deeds of the land in the name of John Livingstone. John made known that he was not in favour of that, and he was torn at that stage as between the management of his father's lands on the one hand, or his plans for medicine on the other. He made it a matter for prayer and fasting, and that is an example of his godliness: it wasn't something light with him in the dilemma as to what to do. And he brought the matter to the Lord, as he writes in his autobiography:
"Now being in these straits, I resolved I would spend one day before God by myself alone; and knowing of a secret cave, I went thither, and after many 'too's and 'fro's, and much confusion and fear, anent the state of my soul, I thought it was made out to me, that I behoved to preach Jesus Christ, which if I did not, I would have no assurance of salvation."So that, in the course of that prayer and fasting, the Lord directed him not to medicine, not to land management, but into the preaching of the everlasting Gospel of Christ. "After which," he says, "I laid aside all thoughts of France and medicine, and the land." Interestingly, the land that his father had bought, and wanted to put in his name, somebody else purchased very soon afterwards.
His preparation of mind and soul prior to the preaching of that sermon that we referred to in 1630 from Ez 36:25,26 (the Spirit's pouring water upon them) shows his godliness. The sermon was preached at Shotts in 1630, and we get a glimpse into his spiritual exercisedness in these preparations. In his autobiography he writes:
"The parish of the Shotts bordered onto the parish of Torphichen, whether they sometimes resorted. And I was several times invited by the minister to preach there. In that place I used to find more liberty in preaching than elsewhere. Yea, the one day in all my life wherein I got most of the presence of God, in public was on a Monday after the Communion preaching in the churchyard of the Shotts, 21st June 1630. The night before I had been with some Christians who spent the night in conference and prayer [we believe it was in the open]. When I was alone in the fields about eight or nine in the morning before we were to go to Sermon there came such a misgiving of spirit upon me, considering my unworthiness and weakness and the multitude and expectation of the people, that I was consulting with myself to have stolen away somewhere and declined that day's preaching, but I dared not do that, and so went to Sermon and got good assistance. I had about an hour and a half on the points I had meditated upon in Ezekiel 36, and in the end, offering to close with some words of exhortation I was led on about an hour's time [ie. a two and a half hour sermon] in a strain of exhortation and warning with such liberty and melting of heart, as I never had the like in public all my life."Now there is an interesting sequel to that, and it shows how the Lord honoured his godly faithfulness, and I quote from M'Crie's sketches of Scottish History:
Some remarkable incidents occurred on that Monday, one of which, is illustrated in the striking effect produced by Mr Livingstone's discourse. "Three young gentlemen belonging to Glasgow had made an appointment to go to Edinburgh to attend some public amusements. Having alighted at Shotts to take breakfast, one of their number proposed to go and hear sermon - probably more from curiosity than any other motive; and for greater expedition [in order to get going later] they arranged to come away at the end of the sermon, before the last prayer. But the power of God accompanying the sermon was so felt by them that they could not go away till all was over. When they returned to take their horses, they called for some refreshment before they mounted; but when it was set upon the table they all looked to one another, none of them daring to touch it till a blessing was asked; and as they were not accustomed formerly to attend to such things, one of them at last said, 'I think we should ask a blessing to our drink.' The others assented at once to this proposal, and put it on one of their number to do it, to which he readily consented. And when they had done, they could not rise till another had returned thanks. They went on their way more sedately than they used to do, but none of them mentioned their inward concern to the others, only now and then one would say, 'Was it not a great sermon we heard?' another would answer, 'I never heard the like of it.' They went to Edinburgh, but instead of waiting on diversions or company, they kept their rooms the greater part of the time they were there, which was only about two days, when they were all quite weary of Edinburgh, and proposed to return home. Upon the way home they did not discover the state of their minds to one another; and after arriving in Glasgow they kept themselves very much retired, coming seldom out. At last one of them made a visit to his friend, and declared to him what God had done for him at the Kirk of Shotts. The other frankly owned the concern that he had been brought under at the same time; and both of them proceeding to the third, and finding him in the same state of mind, they all three agreed to have a fellowship-meeting. They continued to maintain a practice suitable to their profession for the remainder of their lives, and became eminently useful in their day and generation."There is the effect of a godly life in the hand of God, blessed 500 souls, but particularly we note these three men, who had no thoughts of eternity or their souls that morning of that day.
Well, that is a taste of the life of this man, his godliness, his faithfulness, his pastoral care, and the way that God used him in Scotland in those days, along with others, to turn the nation from ungodliness to a people who cared for their souls. That characterised the day, much more than is true of ours, when we have so much depravity. We have so much to learn from men like John Livingstone.
THE PIETY, PRINCIPLES, AND PATRIOTISM OF SCOTLAND’S COVENANTED MARTYRS;
[A Sermon preached in Greyfriars’ Churchyard, Edinburgh, on Sabbath, 20th June, 1880, on the Bi-centenary of the Covenanting struggle; and re-delivered, by request, on Sabbath, 11th July, in the Dock Park, Dumfries; and on Sabbath, 25th July, at Renwick’s Monument, Glencairn.]
"Thou hadst a favour unto them."—PSALM. 44:3. "Whose faith follow" (imitate).—HEBREWS. 11:7.
THROUGHOUT the greater part of the forty-fourth Psalm we feel the beat of the pulse of the oppressed, we hear the cry of the martyr. In the opening verses, the inspired penman recalls some of the ancient glories of his country, the memories of which had been fast sinking into the azure of the past. He recites the deeds of an Omnipotent arm for Israel in the days of old. The Amorite and the Hittite and the Anakim had been driven out of the promised land, and over Jericho and Ai and Hebron there waved the banner of victorious Israel. From Dan to Beersheba, and from Jordan to the sea, the vine from Egypt had stretched, and the chosen people of the living God were planted in their place. Great was this work of conquest; mighty this revolution in Canaan! Did Joshua and Caleb and their hosts perform it by their own arm? Did their own swords cut the alien armies in sunder? No; for "they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them." God’s sovereign goodness was the originating cause, and God’s almighty arm the performing agent of all. But, having thus raised a memorial to the goodness of God to his fathers, the Psalmist proceeds to lament the evils and tribulations under which his beloved land and the faithful laboured. "Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat." "Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death." "Our soul is bowed down to the dust." And in the midst of these sighs he turns his face to Him who had done so great things "in the times of old," and prays fervently that He would put forth His arm and build up the broken walls. "Thou art my King, O God, command deliverances for Jacob." "Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord; arise, cast us not off for ever." "Arise for our help, and redeem us for Thy mercies’ sake."
These words are written for our instruction, and the application of them to these covenanted lands, and especially to Scotland, is evident. For "we have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old." Two hundred years ago, a great Reformation was accomplished in this land. Ancient forms of error and superstition, mighty like Anak’s giant sons, were hurled from the place of their usurped dominion. Scotland rid herself of the bonds of idolatry, and placed upon her throne King Jesus—her own Sovereign by everlasting decree. A people who entered into covenant with God were planted in the land, and truth and liberty raised their heads in triumph. Did Scotland accomplish this great Reform in her own might! Is she entitled to attribute her deliverance to any arm of flesh? Nay; for "they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them." God’s free favour and mighty power were the cause of all. And when we consider present defections from the lofty Scriptural attainments of the past, the general disregard of the claims of the King of Nations, the many and determined assaults upon the foundations of Christianity, and the low state of practical religion, every lover of Christ; and of his country may well sorrow with the sorrowing Psalmist, and pray the prayers he prayed. "Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face; . . . for our soul is bowed down to the dust: . . . arise for our help, and redeem us for Thy mercies’ sake."
A little before he pens our selection from the Hebrews, the sacred writer has been presenting a list of some of the Worthies of Old Testament times—holding forth the fathers of the grey morning of the world’s history for imitation by the people of God in New Testament times. He commemorates the faith and deeds of Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Gideon, and others. And we may well believe that when he calls upon the Hebrews to follow the faith of "those who have the rule over you," he had not forgotten the list of the heroes of the faith which he had been enumerating. Admiration of those eminent saints was not enough: the noblest eulogies upon their personal character and public deeds would be of little account. Something more was desired; something better was necessary. "Whose faith follow." Let admiration pass forth into imitation. Be like them in faith, in self-denial, in holiness, in constancy, in the high heroism of battling for God. If that list of faith’s nobles were continued by some inspired hand till the present times, there would doubtless appear in it the names of those who, two centuries ago, "for Christ’s royal truth and laws, and Scotland’s Covenanted Reformation," jeoparded their lives in the high places of the field. By faith the Marquis of Argyle esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the honours of his high rank, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith Richard Cameron and his compatriots nailed their Declaration to the Cross of Sanquhar, not fearing the wrath of the King, for they endured as seeing Him who is Invisible. By faith Margaret M‘Lachlan and Margaret Wilson beheld with composure, as they were tied to the stake, the rising of the waters that were to engulf them, for they judged Him faithful that had promised. And what shall we more say, for time would fail us to tell of Donald Cargill, and of Hugh M‘Kail, and of John Brown, and of David Hackston, and of James Renwick, who "through faith subdued kingdoms, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens; they were stoned, were slain with the sword, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy."
But mere admiration of these heroes is not sufficient in the way of commemoration. The most eloquent eulogies upon their character and exploits will fail to form a sufficient tribute to their memory. It is not enough though our hearts were melted at the recital of their sufferings, and though we were moved to tears as we look upon the place where reposes their hallowed dust. Our aims in the commemoration of their noble struggle must be higher. It should be ours to seek that a double portion of the spirit of martyred fathers might rest upon their sons—their mantles falling upon the shoulders of the men of this generation. It should be ours to renew our acquaintance with and redouble our efforts for the extension of the knowledge of those everlasting doctrines for which they contended to the death. It should be ours to pray and labour to induce these covenanted nations to lift up the banner for the supremacy of King Jesus, under which the martyred band went forward, and to unfurl every fold of it to the breeze. It should be ours to awaken the whole people to a sense of present dangers and present duties that, with united hearts as with one heart, we might give Jehovah no rest till His Anointed and Appointed King should be brought back again to Britain, and till glory greater than ever should have her habitation in the land. This would be the noblest tribute we could render to the memory of Scotland’s Covenanted Martyrs; this a more appropriate and lasting memorial than forests of monumental pillars of marble; this the finest chaplet we could wreathe around their tomb. Let our admiration of the martyrs include our adoption of their testimony; let our commemoration of their struggle include the unflinching maintenance by us of the Scriptural principles which made that struggle glorious. So shall we escape the withering curse of our Lord upon the pretended admirers of the martyrs of old:—"Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the Prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the Prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which have killed the Prophets."
I. SCOTLAND’S COVENANTED MARTYRS WERE CHRISTIANS OF EMINENT PIETY. They were eminently pious because "Thou hadst a favour unto them." That piety we are to imitate.
When they look back to the Reformers and Martyrs, people in general direct their attention more particularly to the attitude assumed by those men as public witnesses and national benefactors than to their personal devotion to Christ and the eminent holiness of their character. We think rather of John Knox the Reformer than of John Knox the fearer of God; of Richard Cameron the undaunted opponent of tyranny than of Richard Cameron the man of prayer; of James Renwick the public heroic sufferer than James Renwick the saint. Yet, this is as if we should admire more the streams than the fountain; as if we should concentrate our attention upon the light to the exclusion of the sun whence it emanates. The streams that irrigate the waste and make the desert blossom as the rose flow from the fountain; the light that dispels the darkness and floods the world with glory, comes from the great luminary of the day. The reformers and martyrs succeeded in beautifying the moral wilderness with righteousness and filling the nations with light, because of the purity of their soul and the heavenly light that shone in their understanding—that fountain of purity within being supplied from the river of water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne, and that light emanating from the uncreated Sun of Righteousness that had arisen upon them with healing in His wings. Yes, the reformers and martyrs were social regenerators because they were regenerate men; they were eminent sufferers because they were eminent Christians; they were illustrious reformers because they were illustrious saints. But for their piety, the Reformation and the subsequent valiant struggle in its defence never would have been accomplished.
The martyrs were Christians of great piety because they were Christians of strong faith. Their faith was the root of their piety, and by that faith they were unmoved. They had a personal interest in the Saviour of sinners; rested on Christ alone for Salvation, and believed in Him. They were not men of weak faith; they were men of mighty faith. Had their faith been weak, they would have failed before the difficulties that confronted them, they would have bowed their heads, like the willows, before the blasts that swept around them. They trusted God much, and God strengthened them mightily. He set their feet on a rock and established their goings. By faith they resisted every shock of their many and mighty adversaries, as the rock in the ocean breasts the giant billows and dashes them back in foam. They were pavilioned in the tent of the Lord of Hosts, and they feared not though tens of thousands were round about them. Their demeanour in the face of appalling dangers was marvellous. There was no perturbation of spirit; there was the utmost composure; yea, there was exceeding peace and joy. Trusting in the Lord and compassed by the Angel of the Lord, they felt that their hearts were safe. Their foes might be successful in their assaults upon the outer defences—they might tear their bodies in pieces and trample them in the dust, but upon their souls no injury could be inflicted. Impregnable was the citadel of their souls. They were castled within the everlasting covenant; fortressed by Almighty God.
|"He that doth in the secret place Of the Most High reside; Under the shade of Him that is The Almighty shall abide."|
|"His feathers shall thee hide, thy trust Under His wings shall be; His faithfulness shall be a shield And buckler unto thee."|
|"Tyrants! could not misfortune teach That man had rights beyond your reach? Thought ye the torture and the stake Could that intrepid spirit break, Which, even in woman’s breast, withstood, The fury of the fire and flood."|
And what shall I more say of the elements of their eminent piety? What of their peace—that peace that passeth all understanding, and fortifies the heart and mind in Christ Jesus? "I go up this ladder," said M‘Kail, "with as little fear as I go to my father’s house. Every step is a degree nearer heaven." What of their hope—that hope that is as an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast, entering into that that is within the veil? "This is the day," said Richard Cameron on the morning of Ayrsmoss, "This is the day we shall get the crown." "Oh, how can I contain this!" said James Renwick, "to be within a few hours of glory." What of their joy—that joy that is unspeakable, and full of glory? "I hear the voice," said Marion Harvie as she came out of the Tolbooth for execution, "I hear the voice of my Beloved, saying unto me, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away?’" What of their meekness, their patience, their holiness, their brotherly love, their fidelity, their fortitude? All these fruits of the Spirit they bore plenteously. And, of their whole piety, Jesus was the Author and Finisher.
Doubtless the piety of the martyrs was rendered more sterling, and shone forth more brilliantly, by reason of the afflictions wherewith they were afflicted. Trees of righteousness, they were pruned that they might bring forth more fruit; jewels of gold they were put into the furnace—heated seven times—that the pearls of their graces might sparkle by the fiery trial. He who sat as the Refiner and Purifier brought out more clearly His own image upon them.
|"When the righteous had fallen, and the combat had ended, A chariot of fire through the dark cloud descended. Its drivers were angels on horses of whiteness, And its burning wheels turned on axles of brightness. "And a seraph unfolded the door bright and shining, All dazzling like gold of the seventh refining: And the souls that had come out of great tribulation, They mounted the chariots and steeds of salvation. "On the arch of the rainbow the chariot is gliding, Through the path of the thunder the horsemen are riding; Glide swiftly, bright spirits, the prize is before you, A crown never fading, a kingdom of glory."|
"Whose faith follow." Whose piety imitate. Several Christian denominations contest with each other the honour of the ecclesiastical representation of the reformers and martyrs. They eagerly claim to be their faithful followers and the true representatives of the Church of the Reformation and the times of Persecution. Is the contention so strong to be regarded as the representatives of the piety of those holy men? Are church members as desirous of imitating them in their piety as of being regarded as the faithful adherents of their principles? Is there not reason to call upon Christians to be imitators of the martyrs in their faith in, and love for Christ, in their self-denial, and entire consecration to the service of Christ? Why attempt to create a divorce between imitation of the martyrs as to tile maintenance of their principles and imitation of the martyrs in their piety. The Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. Ye are not straitened in God, ye are straitened in yourselves. Though our martyred fathers are no more, the God of our fathers liveth. He is from everlasting to everlasting God. The Saviour of the martyrs is still a willing and Almighty Saviour; and, as an ambassador of the Lord of Hosts having the ministry of reconciliation, we offer you that Saviour and all the benefits purchased by the sacrifice of Himself. Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. We offer you the salvation in which the martyrs rejoiced; the Saviour whom they loved; the God in whom they gloried. If you would maintain the martyrs’ principles, believe in and love the martyrs’ God. Oh, for a baptism of the Holy Ghost upon all the people in these lands! Oh, that the God of Cameron and Cargill and Renwick would cause His saving and enlightening influences to descend in rich abundance, that multitudes would say, "I am the Lord’s," and would "subscribe with their hand to the Lord, and surname themselves with the name of Israel." The strength of Britain this day is not in her armies nor her ironclads, but in those who are the disciples of Christ. "Ye are the salt of the earth." "The holy seed is the substance thereof." Would that the number of these were greater! The work of national reformation, at present loudly demanded, requires men of faith, self-denial, holiness, piety—men in whose souls, as in the souls of reformers two hundred years ago, runs deep and strong the current of everlasting life; men who are firmly rooted in the everlasting covenant; men who draw their power from Jacob’s mighty God. "They that trust in the Lord shall be strong and do exploits." "The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet, and all Abiezer was gathered after him." "Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
II. SCOTLAND’S COVENANTED MARTYRS WERE CHURCHMEN OF ENLIGHTENED VIEWS AND BROAD SYMPATHIES. They were so because "Thou hadst a favour unto them." In these views and sympathies let us imitate them.
The work to which the Scottish Reformers were called, was a great work. Mountains of ecclesiastical and civil opposition to the claims of Christ, the universal and only Monarch, had to be leveled; and the people required to be lifted up from the depths of ignorance and superstition. How are the reformers to bring down these mountains, elevate these valleys, and prepare the way of the Lord? How can they pull down the principalities and powers and spiritual wickednesses in high places? How arouse the multitude from their deep sleep, and possess them with those liberties to which they had been perfect strangers? Where are the weapons for this mighty moral warfare? A perfect armour is provided: it is the Word of the living God. This is the rod of strength; this the hammer to break the rock; this the sharp two-edged sword. By means of this the Reformers are destined to level the mountains and elevate the valleys. And by means of it they moved Scotland and brought it to the feet of King Jesus. Jehovah ordained strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, that He might still the enemy and the avenger. "For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them."
The great and leading doctrine then, and the doctrine that underlay all the other doctrines for which the Reformers contended and the martyrs died, was the Supremacy of the Scriptures as the Word of God—the Scriptures, the whole Scriptures, and nothing but the Scriptures. In all matters of faith and duty, the Word of God was their court of appeal, and God, speaking in His Word, was their sole Judge of appeal. The Word of God was to them the supreme, and alone infallible standard. The question with them was not, What saith popular taste? or, What saith convenience? or, What saith tradition?—but, What saith the Word of God? "I’ll hear what God the Lord will speak." That Word of God was above Protestant minister; above Papal priest; above Councils, ecumenical though they be called; above Papal Decrees, promulgated though they be by a Pontiff proclaimed Infallible; above Assemblies, however learned and godly; above Cabinets, and Commons, and Lords; above Sovereigns and Emperors. In the re-erection in Scotland, two hundred years ago, from its ruins of the Zion of the Holy One of Israel, this doctrine of the Supreme authority of the Scriptures was the foundation stone: adopted and applied, it elevated the Church and nation to moral majesty. It was the boast of the builders that they took their pattern "not from Rome, not even from Geneva, but from the blessed Word of God."
In those Scriptures, the Reformers found a doctrine that was of special importance in the accomplishment of their Herculean labour. It was the doctrine of the Exclusive Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over the Church. As they searched the Word, this precious truth was ever flashing before their eyes. Jesus Christ was appointed King in the Church by the Father’s everlasting decree; He was anointed to be the Church’s King; He laid down His life for the Church, so securing a right to reign over her; and when His work on earth was done, and He returned to the Father, He was formally invested with this exclusive control. For the suffering of death, He was crowned with glory and honour. This royal prerogative of Headship over the Church, which belongs exclusively to the enthroned Messiah, must not be usurped. To claim or exercise this prerogative is blasphemy, whether it be by priest or presbyter, premier or potentate, or by any other person or power whatever. The Church, having Christ for her own and only Lord, must call no man master. She possesses an independent jurisdiction under her King and Lawgiver, and in the exercise of that jurisdiction she is required and entitled to be free. As Christ’s spiritual kingdom, she must not submit that the prerogative of her King be invaded, nor permit any to wrest from her the liberties with which her King has endowed her. In the First Reformation, this precious doctrine was vindicated gloriously by the liberation of the Church from Papal domination; in the Second Reformation it was vindicated yet more gloriously by the liberation of the Church from prelatic domination. At the beginning of the Second Reformation and against the attempts of the reigning monarch to invade the prerogative of King Jesus and subvert the liberties of the Church, the Glasgow Assembly of 1638 emitted a testimony for this doctrine which shall be ever memorable. Refusing to comply with the behests or be deterred by the threats of the King’s Commissioner, the Assembly proceeded to annul all the acts of the corrupt assemblies by which Prelacy had been introduced; to set aside the infamous Five Articles of Perth to abolish tile Book of Canons, the Liturgy, and Book of Ordination; to condemn Diocesan Episcopacy, or Prelacy, passing an act that "all Episcopacy different from that of a pastor over a particular flock was abjured in this Kirk, and to be removed out of it;" to restore those constitutional rights and liberties by Sessions, Synods, and Assemblies, of which they had been deprived by Prelatic usurpation; and by other similar Scriptural measures to maintain the honour of King Jesus and the independence of His kingdom. It mattered not that upon that Assembly the royal countenance frowned while the light of God’s countenance shone; for their noble work was not accomplished by their own arm, but by "Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them." The words of Alexander Henderson, the able Moderator of that noble Assembly, when bringing the proceedings to a close, merit a lasting memorial:—"We have now cast down the walls of this modern Jericho; let him that re-buildeth them beware of the curse of Hiel the Bethelite." That Assembly of 1638 was, in short, the very Bannockburn of the Church’s spiritual freedom.
It will .be evident from this reference to the work of the Glasgow Assembly, that the Reformers maintained that the form of Church Government laid down in the Scriptures, and sanctioned by the Church’s King, was Presbyterian. Their principle here was this:—The Presbyterian form of Church Government is the only form prescribed in the Bible, and therefore of Divine right and original. They did not suppose that several distinct and differing forms of government were to be found in this infallible standard, and that Christians were at liberty to select the form that would best suit their taste or convenience. If it were so, there would be some good reason to argue that the Head of the Church, who is also the Author of the Scriptures, did not know or did not care to reveal the form of government that might best promote the Church’s highest interests. But the Reformers and Martyrs had not so learned Christ. Their search of the Statute Book of their King was rewarded by the discovery of the great outstanding principles of Presbyterianism, and nowhere could they find a warrant for Independency or Episcopacy. Hence, they valiantly contended for the former and resisted the latter to the utmost, realizing that the honour of their King and the rights of His subjects were involved in the struggle.
Moreover, the Reformers brought themselves into complete subjection to the Scriptures as to its directions affecting worship in the Church. Hence they removed all rites and ceremonies therein that were opposed to the prescriptions of the Word, or for which no Scriptural warrant could be produced. This was following out the Supremacy of the Scriptures and the Headship of Christ to one of their last and grandest conclusions. It was like the lopping off of the topmost boughs of papal superstition and ecclesiastical corruption. It was the erection of the headstone of the corner, and the ornamentation of the ecclesiastical structure. The Reformers of the First Reformation grasped this principle tenaciously and applied it with much thoroughness. John Knox enunciated this principle in such words as these:—"It becomes the Kirk of Jesus Christ to admit what He speaketh, and when He maketh end of speaking or lawgiving there to rest. All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the worship of God without His own express commandment is idolatry." So said all the Reformers. By this principle Knox and his co-Reformers wiped away all the Christ-dishonouring ceremonies of the Church of Rome. And by the still more thorough application of it in the Second Reformation, when, by its unauthorized rites, Episcopacy still marred the Church’s beauty, Henderson and his co-Reformers loosed the Church from these bands of her neck, and arrayed her in the beautiful garments her King had prescribed for her. The simplicity of the Church’s worship is her special adornment. It would have been well had the English Reformers risen to the same high platform of principle, but they conceded to the Church a power to decree rites and ceremonies, and because of this, to a large extent, the English Church to-day is a productive recruiting ground for Rome. The Reformation in Scotland was a "root and branch Reformation." "It is not brick nor clay," said Rutherford, "nor Babel’s cursed timber and stones that is in our second temple; but our blessed King Jesus is building His house all palace work and carved stones. It is the habitation of the Lord."
Out of these enlarged views of doctrine and duty arose that catholicity of spirit and those broad sympathies which were such prominent characteristics of the Reformers and Martyrs. They mourned over the evils of the Church and land in their times. They longed for the salvation of souls, and laboured to bring men to the feet of Jesus. They concerned themselves with the public weal, and devoted themselves to the good of all. Intensely did they love the Church which their own Saviour had purchased, and their own King ruled. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; let the tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy." Earnestly did they labour to secure union and uniformity in doctrine, discipline, worship, and government, among professing Christians. Their union aims embraced not the people of Scotland only, but those of the three kingdoms. "We do welcome," said Rutherford, "England and Ireland to our Well-Beloved." "Oh, when," said Renwick, "shall those be agreed on earth that are agreed in heaven. Methinks if the shedding of my blood would effect this, I would count it a small sacrifice for so great an object."
By these doctrines, then, the desolated temple of the Church of Christ was raised up in Scotland two hundred years ago. Zion "looked forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."
|"How fair the daughter of Jerusalem then? How gloriously from Zion hill she looked, Clothed with the sun, and in her train the moon, And on her head a coronet of stars; And girdling round her waist, with heavenly grace, The bow of mercy bright, and in her hand Emmanuel’s cross, her sceptre and her hope."|
|"Walk about Zion and go round, The high towers thereof tell; Consider ye her palaces, And mark her bulwarks well."|
|"Their blood about Jerusalem Like water they did shed, And there was none to bury them When they were slain and dead.|
|"For these are they that Jacob have Devoured cruelly, And they his habitation Have caused waste to lie."|
"Whose faith follow." Let us embrace those doctrines affecting the Church’s existence, privileges, and prosperity, for which the martyrs suffered, and let us imitate their fidelity to the high attainments of a preceding period. The great Scriptural doctrines for which they were honoured to contend and which constituted the Church’s glory, are still more or less lightly esteemed by even many professing Christians and ecclesiastical denominations. The past two hundred years have not witnessed so daring an assault as have the present times upon the infallible truth and supreme authority of thc Scriptures—this daring assault too being made within churches reputedly orthodox, and by men who have subscribed the Westminster Standards, and have never repudiated that subscription. Many have discovered a new standard of theology and religion in this enlightened century. This new standard is nothing less than the "human" or "Christian consclousness"—a standard sufficiently elastic for a loose generation, and by which every man becomes a standard and law unto himself. A wave of Biblical criticism, very unlike the wave that came from Geneva in the days of Luther, has passed from the Continent to this land, and some men of theological standing are being whirled within its eddies. The theology of Naturalism and Rationalism is taking the place of the theology of Revelation—the only true theology. A blow at the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures is a blow at the foundation. Arising out of this, that central doctrine of the Gospel of Salvation—the substitution of Christ for sinners—is ignored or denied by not a few prominent leaders in some of the evangelical Churches, and Arminianism is making rapid strides to popularity. Dishonour is done to the royal prerogative of Christ as Zion’s King by those Churches that appeal to or base their claim of rights upon the Revolution Settlement—a Settlement that proceeded upon Erastian principles, and left many of the attainments for which the martyrs suffered in the oblivion to which the Stuarts had consigned them. This dishonour is intensified by the appeal of the same Churches to the Act of Union, by which provision was made for the national support of that Prelacy against which the Covenanters fought, and fighting fell. The doctrine of Christ’s Exclusive Headship over His own Church, and of the freedom of the Church under her exclusive Head, requires to be vindicated and testified for against all modern departures therefrom. There is need to maintain and propagate the doctrine of the Divine right of the Presbyterian form of Church government, for at the present time only two of the Churches—and these among the smallest—hold this doctrine in all its Scriptural completeness. There is need to maintain the high scriptural doctrine concerning the modes of worship in the Church, that no rite or ceremony is to be introduced into the forms of worship for which an express prescription, direct or indirect, cannot be produced from God’s Own Word. The additions to the Church’s worship of forms of human invention, and called for in order to the gratification of mere religious fashion, constitute one of the saddest signs of the present time. "As though God had been defective," as Charnock writes with reference to such innovators, "in providing for His own honour in His institutions, and modeling His own service, but stood in need of our directions and the caprichios of our brains. In this they do not seem to climb above God, yet they set themselves on the throne of God, and would grasp one end of His sceptre in their own hands. They do not attempt to take the crown from God’s head but discover a bold ambition to shuffle their hairy scalps under it, and wear part of it upon their own." By the unflinching maintenance and profession of these doctrines, then, we are to prove ourselves the legitimate descendants of Scotland’s Covenanted Martyrs. This duty may draw down upon us reproach and shame, but, as the doctrines are Scriptural, the shame, like that of the martyrs, is transformed into glory. These doctrines are not now popular nor fashionable; still they are in advance of this age and prevailing ecclesiastical opinions, and they shall be popular and fashionable in the Church everywhere when "God shall help her, and that at the breaking of the morning." They shall have a resurrection with power, when Zion shall be set upon the mountains, and when the glory of her King shall array her. They shall be triumphant when a whole banner for the truth shall wave upon the battlements of the Millennial Church of Jesus. "O thou afflicted, tossed with the tempest, and not comforted; behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and thy foundations with sapphires; I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones."
|"When Zion by the Mighty Lord, Built up again shall be, In glory then and majesty, To men appear shall He."|
We meet to-day to commemorate those who refused to acknowledge or swear allegiance to the king that ruled them—to commemorate those who died as rebels at the hands of the State; and the claim now put forward on their behalf is that they were patriots of pre-eminent loyalty. How can this be? Ah! as the scar upon the wounded soldier who had been fighting for the liberties of his native land against a ruthless invader is pointed to as a mark of honour, so this scar of "rebellion" upon those who were slain in fighting the battles of the Lord of Hosts is a mark of the noblest valour—a badge of everlasting fame. Were the three Hebrews unpatriotic when they refused to bow before the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar on the plain of Dura! Were the Apostles unpatriotic though they did teach things contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there was "another King, one Jesus?" Was Jesus unpatriotic though charged with being a mover of sedition, and condemned to be crucified because His claims were irreconcilable with the claims of Caesar? Nay, verily. True patriotism, Christian patriotism, may require of subjects the most resolute opposition to the claims of their sovereign and the civil constitutions and principles of administration under which they live. True patriotism may even demand of the people the duty of removing their sovereign from the throne—the highest patriotism being displayed in the very act of removal. This honour had the Scottish martyrs of two centuries ago. They could not and would not acknowledge the authority of a king who was bent upon the complete subversion of the Christian constitution which the nation had framed for itself; who claimed the right to interfere with the Church in the exercise of her rights, and make her the abject slave of his own absolute will; and who used his authority by the rack, the gibbet, and the stake, to extinguish every spark of liberty in his subjects, and compel them to render obedience to his tyrannical demands. While many were found to flatter their royal master and play the part of cowardly sycophants, the Covenanters could not see the best liberties of the land crushed out, nor the royal prerogatives of King Jesus blasphemed, and fearlessly they repudiated the authority and sought the dethronement of the royal tyrant. Patriots they, stern and unbending, when, patriotism forgotten, the many became the fawning minions of a lawless sovereign.
|"Their names shall nerve a patriot’s hand, Upraised to save a sinking land; And piety shall learn to burn, With holier transports o’er their urn."|
Those titles attributed in Scripture to Christ as the Head of the Nations were not regarded by the Reformers as mere empty sounds. They felt that these titles set forth, in part, Christ’s royal prerogatives and claims, and that kings and their kingdoms should hear and obey. From those titles they justly drew such inferences as these:—That kings and nations, in their official and national character, should recognize by formal declarations the great Sovereign, King Jesus, that reigned over them; that they should frame their constitutions and enact their laws in obedience to that Sovereign, taking His Word as their great Statute Book; that those only should be chosen to rule in a Christian nation who were fearers of God, and resolved in their office of rule to honour Messiah, and that the avowed enemies of God and His Anointed should be excluded from the throne and from all legislative power; that kings should exert their high authority for the removal of all impediments to the progress of Christianity, and should contribute toward the extension of the Church of Christ in the world. While the State should reserve to itself its own independent civil jurisdiction and the Church her own independent spiritual jurisdiction, yet both powers should co-operate for their mutual benefit, and should strengthen one another’s hands—the one in subjection to Christ’s Headship over the Nations, and the other in subjection to Christ’s Headship over the Church—for the establishment, by the willing recognition of the whole nation, individually and collectively, of the universal Mediatorial Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Reformers and Martyrs were not Erastians, for they were ever struggling against the invasions of royalty upon the Church’s liberties. Neither were they Voluntaries, for there was not one of them that ever broached the modern error that the "State has nothing to do with religion, and religion nothing to do with the State;" or, as Principal Cunningham defines it, that "the only relation that ought to subsist between Church and State—between the civil government and religion—is that of entire separation." If Voluntaryism be right, then all these titles of Christ mean nothing, and all the exhortations to kings and nations in Scripture with respect to Christ and His cause and Church are mere sounds. If Voluntaryism be right, then one of the principalities and powers of the earth is set loose from the dominion of the Mediator, Christ is not universal Monarch, but is shorn of part of his Mediatorial glory. While the Reformers studiously avoided the Scylla of Erastianism, they no less carefully steered clear of the Charybdis of Voluntaryism. They laboured, indeed, to liberate religion from State patronage and control, but they never for a moment dreamt of liberating the State from the control of the enthroned Messiah, and of yielding up the nation to au Atheistic license. Had they not done the latter they would have been Erastians of the Erastians; for what is Voluntaryism but an Erastianism of the most Christless kind? Does not Voluntaryism claim to control religion out of all national action and offices? Does it not compel Christ to stand outside the National School—to stand outside the Halls of Legislature—to stand away from the Throne and Constitution? It will not grant Christ the universal right He claims to rule over all; nor Christianity the unlimited liberty it is infinitely worthy to receive. And is that not an Erastianism of the deepest dye? If Voluntaryism be right, then the whole Covenanted Reformation in one of its principal aspects was a grand mistake; for, that the king and the nation, as such, espoused it, was one of its central excellencies. Never did Scotland, never did these three nations behave themselves more princely than when they entered into covenants with the God of nations; than when, by those national deeds, they surrendered themselves to God. It was "the day of the Redeemer’s strength, when the princes of the people assembled to give themselves willingly to the Prince of the kings of the earth." These lands were Hepzibah and Beulah, the Lord’s Delight, and married to Him in an everlasting covenant. "God hath laid engagements on Scotland," said the Marquis of Argyle on the scaffold, "we are tied by covenants to religion and reformation; those who were then unborn are yet engaged, and it passeth the power of all the magistrates under heaven to absolve from the oath of God." When then the nation entered into those covenants, the step was a public, practical, national exhibition of the Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over the nations. Of that covenanted nation then it might have been said, "Open ye the gates that the righteous nation that keepeth the truth may enter in."
Ere twelve years had passed, however, that storm burst that was to lay in ruins the whole structure of a Covenanted Reformation. Soon after the restoration of Charles to the throne, it became too apparent that with axes and hammers the carved work of the Reformation temple would be broken down. The drunken Parliament of Middleton and the Royalists—fit authors of a deed so godless—initiated the crusade by the passing of the Act Rescissory—rescinding the Covenants, and pronouncing unlawful and treasonable these and other national deeds in favour of the Reformation. And, immediately thereafter, an absolute supremacy, both ecclesiastical and civil, was vested in the Sovereign. Before the baseless supremacy of Charles Stuart, the everlasting supremacy of King Jesus must go out in darkness! Against all who refuse to acknowledge the former, there goes forth the decree of extermination. Never did a Persian ruler with his drunken Haman, nor a lawless monarch of Babylon issue fouler decrees, or better act the despot. Sharp, and Clavers, and Lagg, and Crichton lead, from time to time, in the execution of the bloody behests of their royal master. What will the Covenanters do now? Yield to the supremacy of King Charles, and let the supremacy of King Jesus go? Turn back now when the blast of the trumpet has been blown for the battle? Never! They are overwhelmed with sorrow as they contemplate this assault of tyrants upon the honour of their God and the liberties of their land; but yield they cannot, yield they will not. To the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty! Like Israel when Joshua addressed them reminding them of the difficulties of fidelity to their God, so said they, "Nay, but we will serve the Lord." And
|"Diocletian’s fiery sword Work’d busy as the lightning." "Their moans, The vales redoubled to the hills, And they to heaven."|
|"They first on earth, while all the morning stars Looked on spectators from the heavenly skies, Proclaimed, Resistance is a right Divine; And, to the beating of their hearts, in shouts, Answered the echoes of posterity."|
|"Men called it rash, perhaps it was a crime; His deed flashed out God’s will an hour before the time."|
Although the Revolution Settlement possessed several excellencies, it was matter of lamentation that it left unrestored much of the Covenanted work of Reformation. It fell far short of conceding and "settling" all that the martyrs so nobly contended for. The Act Rescissory was allowed to remain untouched in the Statute Book, and the nation’s Solemn Covenants were wholly ignored. That Revolution Settlement, moreover, proceeded upon the principle of political expediency—the will of the people, for it granted Presbytery to Scotland, as it was "agreeable to the inclinations of the people." It proceeded upon religious equality to the extent of establishing one form of church government in this kingdom and a different form in the sister kingdoms—this latter a form which the martyrs constantly resisted. It was Erastian, for by it the Standards of the Revolution Church were appointed for her before a single Assembly was called, and the meetings of her Assemblies were subsequently, in the Erastian spirit of that Settlement, interfered with and controlled. It was, in fine, a Settlement that did not take for its guide the supreme authority of the Bible; that did not conserve the Headship of Christ over the Church and Nation; that did not defend Presbyterianism as of Divine origin; and that in various other respects fell far below the platform of the Scriptural attainments of the Church and State in their purest times. The faithful followers of Cargill, Cameron, and Renwick were overwhelmed with sorrow when they beheld the crushing of the bright hopes they had entertained. Bitter, indeed, was their disappointment. Their martyred sires and they had marched under the banner for that whole Covenanted work—braving the wrath of their keenest foes, and how could they desert it now that peace had returned to bless and liberty was so plentiful in the land? They could not, they dare not; and the whole history of the Revolution Church since, as well as of the nation, justifies the position of separation from Church and State our Covenanting fathers then felt compelled to assume. "The Lord our God will we serve," said they, "and His voice will we obey."
A few years after the Revolution Settlement came the Act of Union between Scotland and England, one of the "fundamental and essential conditions" of which was that the Church of England should be left undisturbed, and that all the Acts for her establishment and for the preservation of her doctrine, worship, discipline, and government should "remain and be in full force for ever." Ah! the testimony uttered by every Scottish martyr on the scaffold, and the testimony on every martyr’s monument now throughout the breadth of the land, cries out upon that Act as a surrender of a Reformation heritage and a dread act of apostacy from Scotland’s covenanted King.
To that Revolution Settlement and Act of Union we trace many of the evils with which Britain is at present afflicted—evils against which we lift our voice, not, we trust, because we love the nation less, but because we love Christ more. Our national constitution and national administration to a large extent ignore, and are in conflict with, the claims of the Lord’s Anointed. There is still in the Constitution that Act of Uniformity which occasioned the ever memorable exodus of the Puritans from the Church of England—an Act which remains in all its tyrannical force, but is restrained meanwhile by an Act of Toleration. In the British Constitution there is an Erastianism by which the Church of England is as helpless for reform, without the aid of the Sovereign and Privy Council and Parliament, as is the Church of Rome without the interference of infallibility. Prelacy is in the Constitution, and the nation is bound to maintain it "inviolable for ever"—that Prelacy in all its unscriptural elements which the three nations bound themselves to extirpate. The Liturgy of the Church of England is in the Constitution—a Liturgy which affords protection for the apostles of the Oxford heresy, and contains the dogmas of the Papacy in their germ. And it is this Liturgy and Prelacy and Erastianism that are included in the popular clamour for the maintenance of the "Protestant Reformed Religion as by law established." The Prelatic Church of England receives about six millions annually from the national exchequer, while it enjoys revenues and property, granted by the nation, which represent a capitalized sum of about two hundred millions. The Papacy is in the Constitution, warmly fostered and richly endowed. From the national funds it draws in various ways, in the course of a year, one million of pounds. To such an extent does the British nation support that system which God in His Word has doomed to destruction by the breath of His mouth and the brightness of His coming. "And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded unto death, and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast." The British Constitution and the British nation admit to the high office of legislators those who are the avowed enemies of the Lord and His Anointed—Secularists, whose State theory is blank Atheism; Roman Catholics, who are idolaters and profane the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary; Unitarians, who deny the Deity of our Lord; and Jews, who hold that Jesus was an impostor—all are eligible to rule this Christian nation—do actually now [ca. 1880] sit in the House of Commons.  Two centuries ago, the foundations of political liberties were laid by the exclusion from rule of the avowed enemies of God and the Christian religion. Now, it seems, these are as much entitled to rule, and as well qualified to rule aright, as the firmest believers in God and His Word; and this is cried up as an evidence of the growing charity and greater enlightenment of this century! "Grey hairs are here and there upon us, and we know it not." In all these respects the British nation is doing dishonour to the King of nations. "They have set up kings, but not by Me; they made them princes, and I knew it not."
And, worse than all, an Ecclesiastical Supremacy is vested in the British Crown. Over the Church of England, the Sovereign is Supreme Governor and Head; the royal prerogative of Christ is invaded; the Church’s independent jurisdiction is blotted out. Queen Victoria is perhaps the noblest queen, and is certainly one of the noblest sovereigns that has ever swayed the British sceptre; but still, never can we palliate the dishonour done the Church’s exclusive Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, by this assumption of an ecclesiastical supremacy. The guilt of this dishonour rests not so much upon the sovereign, who by solemn oath assumes this headship, as upon the nation which requires that coronation oath to be taken. This claim of ecclesiastical supremacy is in all respects, except in the matter of persecution to enforce it, the same as it was in the time of the Stuarts, two centuries ago. The headship of the present sovereign is in no essential respect different from what it was when Henry the Eighth, quarrelling with Rome, took it from the head of the Supreme Pontiff, and placed it upon his own. Our fathers could not suffer any sovereign to bear the title, Head of the Church. Whether written on the mitre of the priest or on the diadem of the sovereign, they denounced it as one of the names of blasphemy. "This is the magistracy I have rejected," said Donald Cargill at his execution, "that which was invested with Christ’s power. And seeing this power taken from Christ, which is His glory, made the essential of the crown, it was as if I had seen one wearing my husband’s garments after he had killed him; and seeing it is made the essential of the crown, there is no distinction we can make that can free the conscience of the acknowledger from being a partaker of this sacrilegious robbing of God." "Own you the King," said his accusers to John Nisbet, "in all matters civil and ecclesiastical, and to be Head of the Church?. . . . "I will acknowledge none," was the reply, "to be the Head of the Church but Christ." "I leave my testimony," said James Renwick, the last of the martyr throng, as he stood on the scaffold, "against all usurpations made on 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." Were these martyrs with us to-day, they would exert every effort to have this dishonour to Christ removed, or at least their beloved Covenanted Scotland delivered from being "partaker in this sacrilegious robbing of God." This headship over the Church is, in the words of Blackstone, "an inherent prerogative of the crown." To the maintenance of this "inherent prerogative," every member of Parliament swears when he takes the oath of allegiance; and the oath of allegiance is, in the words of Majesty, "the safe-guard of the crown." Thus it is that this usurpation on the rights of Christ is protected and maintained by all the power of the British Crown and nation. And scarce a voice lifted up throughout all Scotland in condemnation of the flagrant iniquity! While this iniquity, and the others already particularized, are not simply administrative but fundamental, not incidental but essential, not temporary but permanent! The millions quarrel about the respective policies of parties, while they forget these great moral questions that lie deeper far; and the parties devise and discuss methods for the removing of the eruptions on the surface, while they seem utterly oblivious of the fact that a powerful leprosy is doing its work at the core. "Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord? Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?"
Why speak ye not a word about bringing the King back? If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed. The liberties of the land are in danger, and it is time we should awake from our slumbers. Difficult is it to rid the many of their fancied security. They say, "Their mountain stands strong. Britain shall never be moved." And they fold their hands and laugh at those who seek to arouse diem to repel the increasing assaults. True, no kingdom on earth enjoys greater advantages; in none are the rights of man more faithfully guarded, while the powers of sovereign and subject are limited and established by laws that have been settled into their place through the lapse and experiences of generations. But still, never was there a time within the last two hundred years when a more determined assault upon these rights and privileges was made than at present. And that which creates most alarm is the indifference to these assaults of the Christian subjects who ought to be most zealous and valiant defenders of the precious heritage that has been entrusted them, procured at the expense of their fathers’ blood. "The Gospel of the grace of God," said Martin Luther, "is like a flying summer shower, it drops here and there and then passes on." Let us beware lest these lands are receiving the latter drops of this shower of blessing, and lest already the shower is passing away. Other nations, as highly evangelized and as well established as we, have gone back in the roll of nations; ashes and dust hide their perished glories. Throughout lands once full of Bibles and privilege there now rises the minaret by the side of the mosque, from which goes forth ever the doleful proclamation, "There is no God but God, and Mahomet is His prophet."
In this hour of our peril, our whole efforts should be directed to the restoration of the work of the Covenanted Reformation; this is the hope and safety of the nation. It was by the grand Scriptural principles in the maintenance and application of which the Covenanting struggle was waged that the foundations of our civil and religious liberties were laid. If those liberties are to be conserved and transmitted in their entirety to coming generations those great principles must he believed in and applied. Who could persuade themselves that the superstructure will stand when the foundations are being removed? The superstructure of our liberties will crumble to the ground if we tamper with the doctrinal foundations on which those liberties rest. Therefore let us gird ourselves to keep in their place what of the foundations are still secure, and let us gird ourselves for the work of restoring those foundation stones that have been vilely cast away. Bringing these nations to the feet of their anointed and everlasting King; bringing them back to their covenanted allegiance to their sovereign Lord—this is the great and honourable work which the God we serve imperatively demands at our hands. If now an extensive movement should commence for the accomplishment of this noble object, the memory of the martyrs and their patriotic struggle for liberty would receive an appropriate commemoration, and this two hundredth year after their martyrdom would be memorable in the history of the land. Our hope for this is not so much in the rulers in the State or the leaders in the Church, though we know that the Lord of Hosts holds in His hand the hearts of all, and can turn them at His sovereign pleasure; but our hope is in the people. Usually in the past the people have been the most powerful factor in reformation. In the Reformations in the times of Luther, and Knox, and Henderson, the people awoke from their lethargies and rose up in new life to carry on the work to its completion. Be up then and doing, we beseech you, and, by the help of Almighty God, we may yet succeed in driving the battle to the gate. The restoring of the ruined temple of the Covenanted Reformation, and thereby the effecting of a Third Reformation for Scotland,—this is the work of the present hour, the work of every true patriot, of every lover of the Church, of every lover of Christ’s crowns. "When Christ comes," said Richard Cameron, "to raise up His own work in Scotland, He will not want men enough to do it." May He come soon, then, to raise up His tabernacle that is fallen, and restore it from ruins, as in days of old! Awake! why sleepest Thou? Pluck Thy hand, even Thy right hand, out of Thy bosom. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, Most Mighty, and ride forth for the sake of truth, and meekness, and righteousness. Take to Thee Thy power and reign. Reign over Scotland, and over Ireland, and over England. Reign over Europe, and over Asia, and over Africa, and over America. Take the throne of every heart, and the throne of every household, and the throne of every community, and the throne of every church, and the throne of every nation, and the thrones of all worlds; and let every knee bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
|"Thou shalt arise, and mercy yet Thou to Mount Zion shalt extend; Her time for favour which was set, Behold! is now come to an end.|
|"Thy saints take pleasure in her stones; Her very dust to them is dear; All heathen lands and kingly thrones On earth Thy glorious name shall fear."|
Address by Dr Ian Paisley, MP, MEP at the Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Oliver Cromwell held in the Crypt of the House of Commons at Westminster on the 400th Anniversary of the Birth of Cromwell on Thursday, April 15, 1999. Dr. Ian Paisley
In any great crisis in a nation's history, oftentimes for a time, the evidence of the sovereignty and supremacy of Almighty God is concealed.
However, when a demonstration of power is manifested, a demonstration which is beyond natural explanation, then acknowledgement of Divine intervention has to be made.
In human history, of all the occasions which demonstrate Divine intervention more readily, are those when the settling or pulling down of governments is at stake. So distinct have been such interventions that the blindest of eyes have been opened. Such events are displayed in the life and times of Oliver Cromwell.
The Jesuits, the shock troops of the Vatican, directed across Europe in the middle of the seventeenth century, brought a resurgence of Popery, recovering part of the ground lost at the Reformation. In Germany, France, the Low Countries, Spain and even Italy the Counter-Reformation of Rome gained or regained ground. It was imagined that the Protestant faith would be overthrown in the British Isles, and the liberties of the Reformation would be lost forever. Europe became awash with priests, Jesuits, friars and monks. The fight in Cromwell's day was the battle against the Papacy. The Royal House of the Stuarts sided with Rome and was broken in the conflict.
The same is happening in our nation today, and every effort is being made by the political-religious structure of Rome to grasp that which was denied to Popery in Cromwell's day. Cardinal Hume rejoiced at the divisions of the Church of England over the ordination of women, and saw it as the way Mary's Dowry of England would return to Romish control.
That great historian Guizot, commenting on what led up to the Cromwellian era, said: "The time has now come when good and evil, salvation and peril, are so obscurely confounded and intermixed, that the firmest minds, incapable of disentangling them, have become mere instruments in the hand of providence, who alternately chastise kings by their people, and people by their kings."
Rome always blackens those employed in the furtherance of Heaven's purpose against her. Hence Rome's attempts and successes in utterly crucifying the character of God's instruments. This she does in order to give coming generations the most bigoted, malicious and outrageous views of the faith and character, methods and attainment of those very instruments so signally used and honoured by God.
No one has suffered more by such diabolical treatment than Oliver Cromwell. At the beginning of the seventeenth century our nation was on a steep decline which it seemed would inevitably plunge her into the overwhelming gulf of Rome. The Stuart monarchs were the leaders in that apostasy. Charles I (1625) was more opposed to the Bible and more inclined to tradition and hierarchy than James I (1603), Charles II more so than Charles I, while James I surpassed all his predecessors.
The years between 1642 and 1669 demonstrated that the alarms of the Puritans were solidly based. Charles II, who, as his mother Henrietta Maria declared to Louis XIV, "had abjured the heresy of his education, and was reconciled to the church of Rome", composed a treatise to prove that there could be but one Church of Christ upon earth, and that that was the Church of Rome. Charles II acknowledged to his brother, the Duke of York, that he also was attracted to the mother-church. Charles II sounded his ministers on their intentions with regard to Popery, and prepared to follow the Duke's advice by a plain and public declaration of Romanism, if he had not been checked by the prudent counsel of Louis XIV. Charles II refused on his deathbed the sacrament from the Protestant Bishop of Bath, replying to his brother, who proposed in a whisper to send him a Romish priest: "Do so, for the love of God!" confessing to the missionary Huddlestone, declaring his wish to become reconciled to the Roman Church, and receiving from him absolution, the host, and even extreme unction. Those most assuredly were not phantoms!
Yes, and those of us who in our day see the similar Rome-inspired forces seeking to destroy the Williamite Revolution Settlement in the Coronation Oath, the Protestant Succession and the Protestantism of the National Church and forcing upon us the alien and Romish judicial system of Europe, are not dealing with phantoms either, but hard and fearful facts.
After his death and the return of the perfidious Stuarts, Oliver Cromwell was blackened beyond recognition. The Roman Church in Ireland furnished the tarring and feathering process. Even today in the public mind he is often painted as the vilest of the vile, the persecutor of the people of God, a reprobate and hypocrite of the lowest order; but those who have studied the evidence and examined the well-established historical facts, even though their background was deeply prejudicial, have had to admit that the Cromwell of his detractors was not the Cromwell of real life. That it was a colossal slander of the true Oliver Cromwell.
When Thomas Carlyle produced his monumental work The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, a distinguished critic, writing in the premier Blackwood Magazine, stated: "If there is anyone who still believes that Cromwell was a thorough hypocrite, that his religion was a systematic deception to cover his ambitious designs, the perusal of these volumes will entirely enlighten him to the contrary. We look upon this hypothesis, the Machiavellian explanation of Cromwell's character, as henceforth entirely dismissed from all candid and intelligent minds. Cromwell was a genuine Puritan. There is no doubt about that."
In reviewing Lady Antonia Fraser's Cromwell, Our Chief of Men, the Times Educational Supplement says: "Lady Antonia Fraser has sought to 'humanise' Cromwell, to bring out the 'nature of the man himself' rather than seeking to relate him to the 'political and social trends of the age'. Partly as a result, Cromwell's family plays a far greater role in this life than hitherto, and this, it seems to me, is both justifiable and successful. The most notable achievement of this biography is its absolute fairness. Lady Antonia is at her best in the detailed analyses of particular, critical episodes, especially Cromwell's massacre of the Irish Catholics at Drogheda and Wexford in 1649. There is a real attempt to present the man, warts and all, and to judge him by his own values and those of his day. Readers of Cromwell will be rewarded with a book that is clear, scholarly and fair. This book should finally destroy any lingering stereotyped view of Cromwell as the 'dissembling perjured villain', cold, scheming and hypocritical."
The Sunday Times says: "Lady Antonia wishes us to show that Cromwell was no tyrant, was not ambitious, had a bursting conscience, and was civilised. The evidence she has assembled is overwhelming."
The Sunday Telegraph says: "Lady Antonia sees, better than anyone has, the complexities of his character, the different strains in it. The author puts forward a cool, and convincing, defence of Cromwell in Ireland, which will be a surprise to Irish readers brought up on the legend rather than the facts."
Need we say anything further about the lies that have been peddled against Cromwell by his enemies? What Cromwell himself said to Col. Norton on March 28, 1648, has more than come true: "I know God has been above all ill reports and will in His own time vindicate me."
We will take three looks at Cromwell in this address:I. CROMWELL, THE CHIEFEST OF SINNERS - His own testimony.
II. CROMWELL, THE CHIEFEST OF MEN - John Milton's testimony.
III. CROMWELL, THE CHIEFEST OF PROTESTANTS - History's testimony.
I. CROMWELL - THE CHIEFEST OF SINNERS - His own testimony
The Protestant interest was ill-served by the Stuart kings. They deserted the Reformation principles and gave up their stations as defenders of the Protestant faith. They refused to confront the fanaticism of Most Catholic Spain and they made a bigoted French Princess a royal consort placing her on the Queen's throne of England. By seeking to build the Pope's house in Protestant England they destroyed their own house.
On 25th April, 1599, while Shakespeare was still living and Good Queen Bess yet reigned, the wife of one Robert Cromwell bore her husband a son. Robert Cromwell was the nephew of the Earl of Essex, at one time one of Queen Elizabeth's favourites. Cromwell was christened on 29th April. His family possessed lands round Huntingdon.
When he was a boy of four, James VI on his way from Scotland to take the throne of England as James I, visited Oliver's uncle's stately mansion at Hinchinbrook. The story that Oliver had a punch up with young Prince Charles is probably apocryphal. As Oliver grew up he learned of the intrigues of the Jesuits, the treachery to Rome of many within the Church of England and the move of the King to a government of tyranny and arbitrary power. In 1616 Oliver became a student at Cambridge University. He was entered at the Sidney Sussex College. With the death of both his grandfather and father he moved home to help his mother with the task of bringing up six daughters. He was her only son. A year after returning home he left for London to obtain knowledge of the law. Claims that he lived a dissolute life in London are lies. In London he became acquainted with the Bourchier family and on 22nd August, 1620 aged 21 he married Elizabeth Bourchier in St Giles Church, Copplegate.
The next ten years he passed in seclusion. He busied himself in family and in industrial and social duties as his father did before him. It was during this period that he was arrested powerfully by the working of the Spirit of the living God upon his conscience and inmost soul. He was given a vision of his depraved and corrupted heart as a law work of conviction of sin was done in his inner being by the Holy Ghost. He saw his lost, ruined and undone sinful condition. He cried out that he was the chief of sinners. With Paul he confessed: 'O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?'
Thomas Carlyle states: "It is therefore in these years that we must place what Oliver, with unspeakable joy, would name his Conversion - his deliverance from the pains of eternal death." Oliver was from henceforth "a Christian man, not on Sunday only but in all days, all places and in all cases". Having moved to St. Ives, Oliver developed in his spiritual life. John Milton wrote of him: "Being now arrived at a mature and ripe age, all which time he spent as a private person, noted for nothing so much as the culture of a pure religion and an integrity of life, he had grown rich at home, and had enlarged his hopes, relying upon God and great soul in a quiet bosom for any the most exalted times." The Bible was his life's book. His Psalter was his prayer book and his Throne of Grace was where he daily met with his God, and obtained the required mercy and found help in the time of need.
In all he had five sons and four daughters. These were as follows: Robert, his first born, baptised 13th October, 1621. Oliver, baptised 6th February, 1628. He was killed in battle early in the civil war. The Protector alluded to him on his death bed: "It went to my heart like a dagger; indeed it did." Bridget, baptised 4th August, 1624. She was married to Ireton, and after Ireton's death to Fleetwood, and died at Stoke Newington, near London in 1681. Richard, born 4th October, 1626. Him Carlyle calls "a poor idle triviality". Henry, baptised 20th July 1620. Elizabeth, baptised 2nd July, 1629. All the above children were born at Huntingdon; the following at St Ives and Ely: James, baptised 8th January, 1631; died next day. Mary, baptised at Huntingdon, 3rd February, 1639. Francis, baptised at Ely, 6th December, 1638. Conversing there, praying there, he passed his days solacing persecuted ministers, and sighings in the bitterness of his soul.
In all, five sons and four daughters; of whom three sons, and all the daughters, came to maturity at Ely; for about 1638 Cromwell probably removed to Ely. His uncle, Sir Thomas, resided there. His mother's relatives - those of them who were left - were there; and now his mother herself removed there, probably with the idea of there terminating her days in the presence of first impressions and associations. The time draws nigh for Oliver to leave his silence, his lonely wanderings to and fro, his plannings, and his doubtings. The storm is up in England, and Oliver has become a marked man; he probably knows that he will have to take a prominent part in the affairs of the kingdom.
Let us halt awhile to reflect on this. This obscure man, a lone English farmer, untitled, unwealthy, with no grace of manner to introduce himself, ungainly in speech and in action, unskilled in war, unused to the arts of courts and the cabals of senates and legislators - this man whose life had been passed altogether with farmers and religious-minded men - was, at almost a bound, to leap to the highest place in the people's army, grasping the baton of the marshal. This man was to strike the successful blows on the field, shivering to pieces the kingly power in the land; was himself to assume the truncheon of the Dictator; was to sketch the outline of laws, of home and foreign policy, which all succeeding legislators were to attempt to embody and imitate; was to wring concessions to his power from the most haughty monarchies of ancient feudal Europe, and to bear up, in arms, England, fast dwindling into contempt, to the very foremost place among the nations; was to produce throughout the world homage to the Protestant religion, making before his name the fame and terror of Gustavus, or Henry IV, of Zisca, to dwindle and look pale - this with no prestige of birth or education. Is it too much, then, to call him the most royal actor England, if not the world, has produced?
Notice, also, that when he was at Cambridge he won some money at gambling: £20, £50, £100. All these sums now were returned as money upon no principle, his own. Here too, is a letter of this Huntingdon time, just before the busy world called him away, giving a glimpse of the man:
"To my beloved cousin, Mrs. St. John, at William Masham, his house, called Otes, in Essex - Present these.
"Ely, 13th October, 1638.
"I thankfully acknowledge your love in your kind remembrance of me upon this opportunity. Alas! you too highly prize my lines and my company. I may be ashamed to own your expressions, considering how unprofitable I am, and the mean improvement of my talent.
"Yet to honour my God by declaring what He hath done for my soul, in this I am confident, and I will be so. Truly, then, this I find, that He giveth springs in a dry, barren wilderness, where no water is. I live, you know where - in Meshee, which they say means prolonging - in Kedar, which signifies blackness; yet the Lord forsaketh me not. Though He do prolong, yet He will, I trust, bring me to His tabernacle, to His resting-place. My soul is with the congregation of the first-born; my body rests in hope; and if here I may honour my God, either by doing or by suffering, I shall be most glad.
"Truly no poor creature hath more cause to put himself forth in the cause of God than I. I have had plentiful wages before hand; and I am sure I shall never earn the least mite. The Lord accept me in His Son, and give me to walk in the light, as He is the light! He it is that enlighteneth our blackness, our darkness. I dare not say He hideth His face from me. He giveth me to see light in His light. One beam in a dark place hath exceeding much refreshment in it. Blessed be His name for shining upon so dark a heart as mine! You know what my manner of life hath been. Oh, I lived in, and loved darkness, and hated light! I was a chief, the chief of sinners. This is true; I hated godliness, yet God had mercy on me. Oh, the richness of His mercy! Praise Him for me - pray for me, that He who hath begun a good work would perfect it in the day of Christ.
"Farewell. The Lord be with you; so prayeth
"Your truly loving Cousin,
II. CROMWELL - THE CHIEFEST OF MEN - John Milton's Testimony
The manliness of Cromwell shines throughout his whole career. He was a man's man, a manly man, every inch a man and still a man "for augh that". No wonder Milton penned the words "Cromwell our chief of men".
To Oliver CromwellCromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud
Not of war only, but distractions rude,
Guided by faith and matchless fortitude,
To peace and truth thy glorious way hast plough'd,
And on the neck of crowned fortune proud
Hast rear'd God's trophies, and his work pursued.
While Darwen stream with blood of Scots imbrued,
And Dunbar field resound thy praises loud,
And Worcester's laureat wreath. Yet much remains
To conquer still; peace hath her victories
No less renown'd than war: New foes arise
Threatening to bind our souls with secular chains:
Help us to save free conscience from the paw
Of hireling wolves, whose Gospel is their maw.
The chief of men indeed!
Elected to Parliament for Huntingdon on 17th March, 1628 - a Parliament quickly prorogued - Cromwell returned to St Stephens in January 1629. On the 11th February, 1629, he made his maiden speech. Cromwell's appearance in the Commons and his maiden speech were graphically described by Sir Philip Warwick in his Memoirs thus:
"He was thirty years of age. All eyes were turned towards him with attention. He wore a plain cloth suit, which seemed to have been made by a bad country tailor; his linen was not of the purest white; his ruffles were old fashioned; his hat was without a band; his sword stuck close to his side; his countenance was swollen and reddish; his voice sharp and untunable; but his delivery was warm and emanated; his frame, although exceeding middle height, strong and well proportioned; he had a manly air, a stern look, a bright and sparkling eye."
Certain ecclesiastics were then gaining notoriety by their zeal in forwarding, within the pale of the church, the power of the King and the doctrines of Rome. Cromwell complained that the bishops permitted and even recommended the preaching of "flat Popery". "If these are the steps to church preferment," exclaimed he, "what are we to expect?" - "What are we to expect?" asked Oliver; and this was in truth the great question of the age. The re-establishment of Popery was the object of the seventeenth century, and Cromwell's first public words were against it. He then set up the landmark which determined and marked out the course he had resolved to follow until his death. Even Hume, generally so hostile to him, is struck by seeing his first words correspond so exactly to his character. Cromwell, indeed, was from the beginning to the end of his life quite consistent; he was faithful to the one idea, which he proclaimed upon the housetops; and it is this man, so decided, so open, who had been termed a hypocrite! History was never guilty of a greater error.
Charles I sought to rule without a Parliament. His acts filled the hearts of honest and loyal Englishmen with shame. In Scotland he sought to destroy Presbyterianism altogether and establish the Romanising liturgy of Laud as the sane way to restore the Papacy. At the first service in St. Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, when the Dean attempted to read the same, an uproar erupted with Jenny Geddes crying out: "Do you dare to say the mass at my lug?" as she threw her stool at the Romaniser.
A new Parliament was elected and met on 13th April, 1650 to the overwhelming joy of the people. Charles had to bow and sign the death warrant of his former minister, the traitor Stafford. In August Charles returned to Scotland. His mission was an evil one. He was seeking the correspondence between the Covenanters and the Parliament in order to brand both parties as being guilty of high treason. In the midst of the agitation and rumour and counter rumour the news of the Irish massacre of 1641 broke in London. Fear and the fear of terror filled the country. The leaders of the Parliament called for a Remonstrance to the King as the nation looked on him as the real enemy of the nation. On 22nd November, 1641 by a majority of eleven votes the Remonstrance was endorsed by the House of Commons. Cromwell stated that if it had not succeeded, he would have "sold everything I possess and never seen England again"; but it was not Cromwell who was forced to quit - it was Charles and his treacherous brood.
There was a great work to be accomplished. Where was the man great enough for the colossal task in that hour of England's peril ? The chiefest of men was there. During one of the debates in the House of Commons a member rose and in an abrupt and flaming tone addressed the members. Lord Digby leaned forward and with astonishment enquired of Hampden the Speaker's name. Hampden answered with a smile: "That sloven whom you see before you hath no ornament in his speech: that sloven, I say, if we should ever come to a breach with the King (which God forbid) - in such a case, I say, that sloven will be the greatest man in England - the chiefest of men."
Yes, he was to be all that John Milton witnessed he would be and John Hampden foresaw he would be.
On 22 August, 1642, at six o'clock in the evening the King set up the Royal Standard in Nottingham and called his subjects to fight his Parliament. Cromwell would brook no half-heartedness, no double dealing, no hypocrisy. He knew the time-serving members of Parliament, he saw through their cowardice and weakness, he hated with a holy hatred their lukewarmness. Clarendon recounts that Cromwell said: "If the King were in front of me, I would as soon shoot him as another; if your conscience does not allow you to do as much, go and serve elsewhere".
Cromwell knew that only godly men could meet and thrash the foe. He said to Hampden: "How can we be otherwise than beaten? Your troops are old, decayed serving men and tapsters and such kind of fellows; and there are gentlemens' sons, younger sons, and persons of quality; but I will remedy that. I will raise men who will have the fear of God before their eyes and will bring some conscience to what they do, and I promise you they shall not be beaten."
Hence the New Model for the Parliamentary Army was brought into being. That New Model beat the Cavaliers onto their faces. In the four countries of these Isles - England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland - they totally prevailed. Charles had a terrible reaping for his abominable sowing. God arose and His enemies were indeed scattered. After one of his great victories Cromwell wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons thus:
"For the Honourable William Lenthall, Speaker of the Commons House of Parliament: These
"I have given you a true, but not a full account of this great business; wherein he that runs may read. That this is none other than the work of God. He must be a very Atheist that doth not acknowledge it.
"It may be thought that some praises are due to those gallant men, of whose valour so much mention is made: - their humble suit to you and all that have an interest in this blessing, is that in the remembrance of God's praises they be forgotten. It's their joy that they are instruments of God's glory, and their country's good. It's their honour that God vouchsafes to use them. Sir, they that have been employed in this service know that faith and prayer obtained this City for you: I do not say ours only, but of the people of God with you and all England over, who have wrested with God for a blessing in this very thing. Our desires are, that God may be glorified by the same spirit of faith by which we ask all of our sufficiency, and have received it. It is meet that He have all the praise.
"Presbyterians, Independents, all have here the same spirit of faith and prayer: the same presence and answer; they agree here, have no names of difference: pity it is it should be otherwise anywhere! All that believe have the real unity, which is most glorious: because inward, and spiritual in the Body [which is the true Church], and to the Head [which is Jesus Christ]. For being united in forms, commonly called Uniformity, every Christian will for peace-sake study and do as far as conscience will permit. And for brethren, in things of the mind we look for no compulsion, but that of light and reason. In other things, God hath put the sword in the Parliament's hands - for the terror of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well. If any plead exemption from that - he knows not the Gospel: if any would wring that out of your hands, or steal it from you, under what pretence soever, I hope they shall do it without effect. That God may maintain it in your hands, and direct you in the use thereof, is the prayer of
Your humble servant,
"Oliver Cromwell."The power of Papal propaganda has maligned Cromwell and made him the monster he never was as far as Ireland is concerned. I would suggest that those who want to study Cromwell in Ireland should read Antonia Fraser's Cromwell: The Chief of Men on this episode of Cromwell's life. "She puts forward a cool and convincing defence of Cromwell in Ireland, which will be a surprise to Irish readers brought up on legend rather than facts." - Sunday Telegraph.
Professor Gardiner remarks that Cromwell was probably the only man in the victorious army who imagined that this signal punishment required any excuse at all. That is the great distinction of Cromwell. In the callousness of a prolonged civil war, and in the suppression of these gratuitous rebellions against the sovereignty of England and of the People, he preserved the self-control, and even the compassion, which few of us maintain unimpaired through our own quiet lives. The terrible severity at Drogheda was not the result of passion, but the calculated sternness of a judge who hoped by a striking example to prevent future delinquencies. The day after Drogheda was taken he hastened to use the fact as a warning to the garrison of Dundalk: "If you, being warned thereby, shall surrender your garrison to the use of the Parliament of England, which by this I summon you to do, you may thereby prevent effusion of blood." Days later, writing to the Council of State from Dublin, he expresses the conviction that the enemy being filled with terror will be prevented from a useless resistance, and thus "this bitterness will save much effusion of blood, through the goodness of God". This expectation was justified. For Dundalk at once submitted without bloodshed, and when Trim was summoned "upon the news of Tredah (Drogheda) some Scots companies, brought to assist the Lord of Ormond, ran away, leaving their great guns behind them, which also we have possessed." In his account to Parliament of the storming he says, evidently with deep conviction: "I am persuaded that this is a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches who have imbued their hands in so much innocent blood, and that it will tend to prevent the effusion of blood for the future, which are the satisfactory grounds to such actions, which otherwise cannot but work remorse and regret."
However Cromwell's action may strike us in gentler times and under quieter conditions, it is quite certain that he himself had no qualms of conscience upon the subject. As a man, as a Christian, as a singularly sensitive and tender heart, he grieved over the "cruel necessities" of his hard day's work, but he never questioned that he was doing God's bidding. A judge may have troubled dreams the night after he has passed the death sentence on a criminal, but he does not question that he has done his duty – and this is just the spirit which breathes in all the despatches from Ireland.
III. CROMWELL - THE CHIEFEST OF PROTESTANTS – History's Testimony
Since the time of the glorious Protestant Reformation, in days of spiritual decline, God has raised up single champions to call the nation back to the old paths of truth and righteousness when the darkness of apostasy has invaded the Church and State. God has not left Himself without a witness. Such a one was Oliver Cromwell.
Oliver Cromwell was a Christian, a Protestant Christian. We have already noted his conversion to God. Conversion teaches a man to pray, and Cromwell's life was a life of prayer. He did not pray as with the Prayer Book. He had an intimate knowledge of God in the person of His Son the Lord Jesus and addressed a reconciled God face to face as a man speaks to his friend.
Let me give you one example of this. Outside this House of Commons there is a monument to Cromwell. That monument was not erected there without opposition. It was unveiled by the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Roseberry K.G., K.T. The noble Lord mentioned in his address the opposition, pointing out that it came chiefly from the House of Lords. He castigated the Government of the day for placing a bust of Cromwell inside the House of Commons itself and then opposed the erection of his statue outside the House; but here is what Roseberry said in his address about Cromwell's prayer life. He called it A New Story of the Protector:
"Let me tell you another little story you have not heard before. It is not much in itself, but it is curious for the directness with which it comes. It was told me by a friend of mine, who is a bishop of the Established Church, and by no means one of the oldest of the bishops. But it is curious. He was told this by a gentleman who had it from a doctor. The doctor had heard it from the Sir Charles Slingsby of his day, who had heard it from the nurse. Well, five people is not a long time, and I trust you will all live long enough to be carried over an equal period of the coming age. He heard it from his nurse, who was the girl mentioned in the story. The day before Marston Moor, Cromwell rode in with his staff to Knaresborough to dine, and when at Knaresborough he disappeared, and they searched for him for two hours. When they failed altogether to find him, this little girl, who afterwards became the nurse, remembered a lonely room at the top of the tower, which no one ever went to, and it was the only possible place where the Protector could be found; and there, looking through the keyhole - for the door was locked - they saw the Protector on his knees before his Bible, wrestling, as he would have said himself, in prayer, as he had already for the two hours he had spent in Knaresborough.
"Was there anything to be gained by that? Was there any effect to lock himself into a ruined and deserted chamber in order that he might implore the blessing of the God of battles on the contest he was to engage in next day? I can see, at any rate, nothing to be gained by it and I think those who know that story must either regard him as no hypocrite at all, or as so consummate a hypocrite that his hypocrisy had become as much a part of his being as the air which he breathed. But, sir, I will give a reason, a more practical reason, for my belief that Cromwell was not a hypocrite. Had he been a hypocrite, he could not have been an enormous success, or wielded the enormous forces that he did. I believe that, had Cromwell been a hypocrite, he would have been found out, and he could not have formed that army which he commanded, which was indubitably the greatest army in Europe at the time. He became early aware of the immense force of that religious fervour that came to his army, but he did not utilise this discovery by making hypocrites of his army. He utilised it by selecting those men who he knew were of good repute with their neighbours, earnest, steady, God-fearing men, who would be able to sustain the onslaught of the brilliant army commanded by the king and his cousin."
Cromwell was the Great Defender of the Protestant Faith. He saw what was happening. He saw what the end would be if Popery triumphed. He saw the future of the nation under what he himself called the Man of Sin and he determined by God's help to save the nation from such a destiny.
When he had gained that victory for his own nation he became the Defender of the Faith throughout all Europe. He was the greatest Protestant to appear in Europe since Luther and Calvin. He was much more than the champion of an outward and official Protestantism. None perhaps compromise true Protestantism so greatly as those who set aside its essential spiritual nature as it manifested itself in the 16th century and reduce it to a mere political system. The Protestantism of the Reformers was the evangelism of Christ and His apostles, not in any way reduced nor in any way enlarged.
We must beware of making Protestantism a mongrel existence, half spiritual, half secular. Cromwell, as J.H Merle D'Aubigne points out in his great book on Cromwell entitled The Protector – a Vindication was motivated "in the fact that in his own soul the truth of this scripture: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
"The ancient religious life of the Reformation was lost: it had been replaced by an attachment to forms. Men carefully inquired whether there was or was not apostolic succession; they examined whether the prayers, the sacraments, and the worship were in conformity with the canons and with the liturgy; they placed their hands everywhere to try all things - everywhere except on their own heart - to feel if it still beat. They were earnestly occupied with conformities; but they forgot one - that which renders man comfortable to Jesus Christ.
"A religious revival took place; truth and the Christian life reappeared. A dry orthodoxy, a clerical system, was followed by a Christianity as fruitful as it was sincere. Oliver is one of those in whom this spiritual revolution was the most striking. In every page of his history we meet with proofs of his faith. Rarely has there appeared in the world a heart that beat so strongly for everlasting truth.
"This faith, of which Oliver constituted himself the defender, cannot perish. It may be covered and hidden, at one time by the arid sands of infidelity, and at another by the tumultuous waves of human passions, or by the images, surplices, and relics of superstition - but it always revives, lifts up its head, and reappears. The revelations of God are for all times, and they have in all ages the same eternal truth, the same eternal beauty."
When persecuting Roman Catholic royal tyrants started the "religious cleansing" of their kingdoms from Protestants, it was Cromwell's threat that made them immediately desist. Not a potentate in Europe was so bold as to dare to expose himself to Cromwell's displeasure. It was in one such instance that Milton wrote his great eulogy to Cromwell:Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughter'd saints whose bones
Lie scatter'd on the Alpine mountains cold;
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipt stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans,
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese that roll'd
Mother with infant down the rocks. Their moans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they
To heaven. Their martyr'd blood and ashes sow
O'er all the Italian fields, where still doth sway
The triple tyrant; that from these may grow
A hundredfold, who, having learn'd thy way,
Early may fly the Babylonian woe.
Cromwell knew what the Papacy really was about and was prepared to expose it and depose it at every turn. To his Vice Admiral Goodson, Cromwell wrote in October 1655 as he engaged in war with Most Catholic Spain:
"The Lord Himself hath a controversy with your enemies; even with that Roman Babylon, of which the Spaniard is the great under-propper. In that respect, we fight the Lord's battles; and in this the Scriptures are most plain. The Lord therefore strengthen you with faith, and cleanse you from all evil: and doubt not but He is able, and I trust as willing, to give you as signal success as He gave your enemies against you. Only the Covenant-fear of the Lord be upon you."
The language of Cromwell today is branded as prejudice and bigotry. Severe lessons will teach us to our cost who is right, the modern leaders in the church and state or the Puritan Colossus of the 17th century.
Maligned in life, Cromwell was maligned in death. The awful storm which marked the time of his departure from this world was painted to as the displeasure of God with Cromwell. His final prayer speaks for itself and makes us say: 'Let me die the death of Cromwell; let my last end be like his':
"Lord, though I am a miserable and wretched creature, I am in covenant with Thee through grace. And I may, I will come to Thee for thy people. Thou hast made me, though very unworthy, a mean instrument to do them some good, and Thee service; and many of them have set too high a value upon me, though others wish and would be glad of my death; Lord, however Thou do dispose of me, continue and go on to do good for them. Pardon Thy foolish people! Forgive their sins, and do not forsake them, but love and bless them. Give them consistency of judgment, one heart, and mutual love; and go on to deliver them, and with the work of reformation; and make the name of Christ glorious in the world. Teach those who look too much on Thy instruments, to depend more upon Thyself. Pardon such as desire to trample upon the dust of a poor worm; for they are Thy people too. And pardon the folly of this short prayer. And give me rest for Jesus Christ's sake, to whom, with Thee and Thy Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and for ever! Amen."
OLIVER CROMWELL – THE PROTECTOR
And The English Civil WarOliver Cromwell (1599-1658) was one of the greatest leaders ever to rule England. He was a dedicated Puritan, deeply and fervently devoted to carrying out the will of God. He was relentless in battle, brilliant in organization and with a genius for cavalry warfare. With a Psalm on his lips and a sword in his hand he led his Ironsides to victory after victory first against the Royalists in England, then against the Catholics of Ireland, and finally against the rebellious Scots.
Oliver Cromwell pursued religious toleration which helped to stabilize the fragile country after the King was executed. His foreign policy in support of beleagured Protestants in Europe and against Muslim pirates in the Mediteranean was successful and he restored the supremacy of the seas to England.
A Distinguished FamilyOliver Cromwell was one of the few people who could trace his family origins to pre-Norman Conquest times. His family were frequently active in the fight for liberty. Six of his cousins were imprisoned for refusing the Forced Loan of 1627. When he was first elected as Member of Parliament from Huntington, in 1628, nine of his cousins were Members of Parliament. Seventeen of his cousins and nine other relatives served at one time or another as Members of the Long Parliament.
Born towards the end of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Cromwell grieved England’s decline from those golden years. His mother, his wife and one of his daughters were all named Elizabeth. He frequently referred to “Queen Elizabeth of famous memory.”
A Country in CrisisEngland in the early 17 th century was deeply troubled. King James had left his realm embroiled in the conflict in Europe against Spain that launched The Thirty Years War, the Crown was bankrupt and England was universally disgraced. James’ heir, King Charles I, had married a French Catholic princess less than three months after he had inherited the throne. All of England had been against a Catholic marriage but Charles evidenced contempt for the opinions of all. He lied, entered into war without Parliamentary approval, made secret concessions with the Catholics, undermined and interfered in the Churches, sent out his agents to collect Forced Loans, bypassing Parliament, and sent rich people to prison until they paid the ransom he demanded.
Under a Tyranical KingLand confiscations multiplied under Charles, and an increasing number of men were sent to prison for refusing to hand money over to the Crown. Arbitrary imprisonments and depriving men of property without any semblance of the Law jeopardized the rights of everyone in the realm. Charles summarily dissolved Parliament whenever it interfered with his will. He scorned a Petition of Rights and said that Parliament had no rights, merely privileges granted by the Crown! The King did not seem to consider himself to be bound by any promise nor subject to any law.
Challenging CharlesIn March 1629 Parliament passed a Bill that declared: “Whoever brought in innovations in religion, or introduced opinions disagreeing from those of the true and orthodox Church; whoever voluntarily paid those duties; was to be counted an enemy to the kingdom and a betrayer of it’s liberties.”
The Cruelty of CharlesImmediately the motion was passed, the King dissolved Parliament and extracted a furious vengeance on Sir John Eliot who had proposed the motion, and others who had supported it. Eliot and other MP’s were thrown into prison. Eliot remained in prison for the rest of his life, dying in the Tower of London in December 1632. Charles’ pettiness was seen in how he even refused the widow the right to take her husband’s body to be buried at their Cornish home. Charles appointed and dismissed judges at will. His appointed Archbishop Laud banned the publication of Calvinist sermons that had been collected since the time of Elizabeth and Edward VI.
The Star ChamberThe cruelty of Archbishop Laud’s Star Chamber can be seen in the treatment of Calvinist minister Alexander Leighton for writing a Puritan book. Leighton was chained in solitary confinement until his hair fell out and his skin fell off. He was tied to a stake and flogged until his back was raw. He was branded in the face, had his nose slit and his ears cut off and was condemned to life imprisonment.
War Against CalvinismFrom the moment that Laud was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury in 1633, the Arminians assumed full control over the Church of England and declared war on Calvinism. Calvinist pastors were dismissed from their parishes. Calvinist writers and speakers were excommunicated, placed in the stocks and had their ears cut off.
The treatment that Calvinists received at the hands of the Arminian Star Chamber was remarkable as Arminians accused Calvinists of being “cruel” in believing that God’s Salvation could be selective. The Arminians had also accused the Calvinists of being in favour of a Theocracy, in which the church ruled the state. They claimed to be less ambitious, but in practice these Arminians ruled the people through the state. For example Archbishop Laud had author John Prynne hauled before the Star Chamber for “seditious libel.” Prynne was barred from further practice of law, had his university degrees rescinded, was find an impossible £5,000, pilloried, had his ears cut off and was then sent to prison for life. All this because of one book he had written.
Ruling Without ParliamentAll of these abuses took place during the eleven years that Charles ruled England without Parliament. These eleven years were the longest years without Parliament in English history.
The Scots RebelHowever, when the Scottish rebelled against the imposition, of what they saw as Roman Catholic superstition and ritual on their churches in Scotland, Charles was forced to recall Parliament to raise new taxes and an army.
The Short ParliamentThe Short Parliament was summoned 13 April, 1640. Instead of providing Charles with the money and men to fight the Scots, they immediately started talking about the crimes of Charles’ government, the atrocities of Archbishop Laud, the illegal taxation of the people, the excesses of the High Commission, and the terrors of the Star Chamber. This Parliament lasted only 23 days before the King dissolved it 5 May.
A Kingdom in CrisisA whole series of crisis situations compelled Charles to call a new parliament. Turkish pirates were raiding the Irish and Cornish coasts and carrying Christians off into Islamic slavery. English settlers were being slaughtered by the Catholics in Ireland. A Scottish army had seized Northern England. There was a general belief that a Catholic conspiracy was at work to destroy English liberties and to install a absolutist Catholic monarchy.
The Long Parliament Seizes the InitiativeFor eleven years newspapers had been banned. The secret circulation of pamphlets helped keep people informed. King Charles was being out-maneuvered and cornered. The Long Parliament moved swiftly and impeached the Earl of Strafford, the King’s dictator of Ireland, as a secret Papist plotting to bring his Catholic army from Ireland to alter the laws and religion of England. The House of Commons also charged that the Arminian changes in the Canons of the Church of England were illegal and impeached Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury, of popery and treason. He ended up in the same tower to which he had consigned so many others. Censorship was abolished and pamphlets on religion and government couldn’t be produced fast enough, the demand was so great. London became a fountain of Puritan publications dealing with God and government, faith and morals.
The King’s government collapsed and his ministers fled the country. Systematically Parliament dismantled the instruments by which the King had oppressed the nation. No taxes could be levied without Parliamentary consent. The Star Chamber, and it’s tortures, was abolished. The Privy Council was deprived of it’s powers. The Court of High Commission was abolished. And the King left financially dependent on Parliament. Parliament also took control of the militia.
Oliver Cromwell played an increasingly pivotal role in Parliament. The Long Parliament which began it’s sitting on 3 November 1640, was the fifth Parliament of Charles’s reign. Cromwell had been in two previous Parliaments which had been summarily dissolved by King Charles.
The Puritan PoliticianOliver Cromwell was described as having penetrating eyes of steely blue, being profoundly religious, well-read, eloquent, full of fervour, and with an iron conviction - which his character turned to steel. He was a graduate of Cambridge University, a descendant of Henry VIII’s Chancellor Thomas Cromwell and a dedicated Puritan. In 1620 Oliver had married Elizabeth Bourchier. Cromwell proved himself an affectionate husband with a deep love towards his children. When he was 28, Cromwell was elected to Parliament as a Member for Huntingdon. This Parliament lasted less than five months before the King dissolved it.
It was eleven years before the Short Parliament was summoned. By the time the Long Parliament was summoned 3 November, 1640, Oliver Cromwell was nearly 42 years old. Up to this point he had no military experience, but that was about to change.
WarAs war became inevitable it seemed that the King’s forces had the great advantage of trained and experienced cavalry. The Royalist officers were experienced at fencing and riding. Leading the King’s cavalry was his cousin Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince Rupert had brought over 100 professional officers experienced in the Dutch and German wars.
EdgehillIn the first serious battle at Edgehill, 23 October, 1642, the King’s forces, led by Prince Rupert descended upon the Parliamentary infantry so effectively that it was almost a massacre. But, after thundering through Essex’s men, the cavalry stopped to plunder baggage. This gave Captain Cromwell the opportunity to counter-attack with his cavalry and halt the Royalist effort to march on London. Cromwell observed to his cousin John Hampden that they never would be able to beat these gentlemen’s sons schooled in sword fighting and horse riding with old, decaying serving men. Oliver Cromwell declared that he was going to set out to find honest men who feared God and were full of the Holy Spirit.
Selecting and Training a Special ForceCromwell’s initiative earned him a promotion to Colonel. Richard Baxter noted that Oliver Cromwell “had a special care to get religious men into his troops because these were the sorts of men he esteemed and loved; and…from this happy choice flowed the avoidings of those disorders, mutinies, plunderings and grievances of the country which debased men and armies are commonly guilty of.” By May 1643 Cromwell had selected and trained 2,000 brave, disciplined and dedicated men .
BattlesIn May 1643 Cromwell, heavily outnumbered, attacked a Royalist force at Belton and killed over a hundred at a cost of only two men. Cromwell’s men quickly earned a reputation for being religious, obedient, fearless and disciplined. In October 1643 Cromwell won a victory at Winceby.
Prince Rupert led the King’s forces to massacre the Calvinists of Bolton, at Clothington.
Cromwell’s Ironsides were victorious at the Battle of Gainsborough on 28 July 1643.
Religious FreedomCromwell rose in Parliament in December 1644 to propose a self-denying ordinance in which all members should resign their military commands. He argued for religious freedom: “Presbyterians, Independents, all here had the same spirit of Faith and prayer…they agree here, know no names of difference; pity it should be otherwise anywhere. All that believe have the real unity, which is most glorious because inward and Spiritual…As for being united in forms, commonly called uniformity, every Christian will, for peace sake, study and do as far as conscience will permit; and from brethren, and things of the mind, we look for no compulsion but that of light and reason.”
A New ThreatHe was horrified to see that Parliament was seeking to impose Presbyterianism on the nation. Baptists, Congregationalists, Anglicans and other Believers had fought on the field of battle for religious freedom, against Catholicism and Episcopal tyranny. Were they now going to replace that with Presbyterian tyranny?
Cromwell demanded the restructuring of the Army. He castigated those sections of the Army where: “profaneness and impiety and the absence of all religion, the drinking and gambling, and all manner of license and laziness” had led to poor performance and defeat. He argued for a New Model Army. Cromwell was appointed second-in-command of the Parliamentary Forces, under Lord Fairfax. Out of the total Parliament Forces of over 88,000, Cromwell selected and trained a quarter (22,000) as a New Model Army.
VictoryAt Marston Moor, on 2 July 1644, Oliver Cromwell led his cavalry to victory over the Royalists in a most decisive battle. By now Cromwell was a Lieutenant-General and his disciplined Bible-reading, Psalm-singing troops won the day. His new Model Army again won a most decisive Battle at Naseby, 14 June 1645. This ended the first civil war.
Presbyterian TyranyMeanwhile Parliament established the Church of England as Presbyterian, with orders to persecute Baptists, Congregationalists and other non-conformists who were to be imprisoned for life, and on some occasions, to even be put to death! No laymen were to be allowed to preach or expound on the Scriptures.
Liberty of ConscienceOliver Cromwell was horrified. This was not what his army had been fighting for! He argued most passionately for religious freedom and liberty of conscience. The Army did not want to see Arminian absolutism replaced with a Presbyterian version. The Independents no longer wanted a national church but all varieties of the Protestant Faith to be free of state interference and limitations. When the Parliament sought to disband the New Model Army which was overwhelmingly composed of Congregationalists, Baptists and other Independents, the Army Council sent a message to Parliament demanding liberty of conscience for it’s members.
Cromwell wrote: “He that ventures his life for the liberty of his country I wish he trust God for the liberty of his conscience, and you for the liberty he fights for.”
Checks and BalancesThe Army Council proposed a Council of State, free elections and an enlarged franchise, the right to dissent with both King and Lords, no bishops, no compulsory orders of service, and no compulsory obedience to Presbyterianism. Although one of the King’s advisors observed “never was a Crown so nearly lost, so cheaply recovered” the king contemptiously dismissed these, and all other, proposals for settlement.
Cromwell then became the power-broker between the army, Parliament and the captive Charles in an attempt to restore a constitutional basis for government. However dealing with the slippery and inflexible Stuart monarch exhausted Cromwell’s patience.
A Second Civil WarIn 1647 Charles escaped and sought to restart the war with the Scottish Presbyterians in support. Defeating the Royalist Welsh and Scottish rebels in 1648, Cromwell supported a trial for treason of the King which ended in the execution of Charles on 30 January 1649.
In 17 August 1648, Cromwell achieved a tremendous victory at Preston. He quickly broke up the Royalist Army and seized 10,000 prisoners. As on any other occasion Cromwell was always very careful to give all the glory to God. He wrote: “It pleased God to enable us to give them a defeat…”
On 6 August, 1647, the Army 18,000 strong, with the King in their midst, entered London. Despite the illusions of the Presbyterians in Parliament, the Army knew that it alone had defeated the King. The Army included officers and men who had previously been excluded from the religious and political consensus. And they were determined not to have Parliament send them back to the pattern of the past that they had so successfully fought against.
Independent Congregations and a Qualified FranchiseCromwell emerged as the Leader of the Independents, favouring freedom of religion for all Protestants. John Milton, Henry Ireton, and Oliver Cromwell argued for “rule by the virtuous, selected by men of standing.” They rejected the universal franchise proposed by the Levellers observing that a man with no more fixed property than what “he may carry about with him”, one who is “here today and gone tomorrow” would be enabled, by numbers ,to enact confiscatory laws. Therefore they advocated a qualified franchise based upon the ownership of property.
Treachery and DuplicityWhile Parliament was arguing over the form of their future Faith and freedoms, King Charles was negotiating with the Scots, promising to accept and impose Presbyterianism over England, suppressing all non-conformists. The Scots who had launched the war against Charles in the first place, now decided that it was God’s will that Presbyterianism should be enforced over England- through restoring Charles to the throne.
On 3 May, 1648, the Scots issued a Manifesto calling on all England to accept their Covenant and suppress all religious dissent from Presbyterianism. They also demanded that the New Model Army be disbanded. The Royalist Cavaliers, both from within and outside of England hurried to join the Scots in this new conflict against the Parliamentary Forces. This Second Civil War saw the Presbyterians allied with the Arminians against the Independents and the new Model Army. How these two theological opposites expected to settle their differences with one another if they ever defeated the New Model Army was a question no one dared even ask let alone attempt to answer at that time.
Cromwell led part of the army to Wales where he lay siege to Pembroke Castle. This, nearly impregnable, stronghold took an agonizing six weeks to subdue. Cromwell then had to force march his army across the country to intersect the invading Scottish army. In a ferocious three-day battle defeated the Scots.
Now the Army was outraged that the duplicity and treachery of the King had led to a new war, even against their previous allies, the Scots. The Army demanded a trial of “this man of blood.”
True Unity of BelieversCromwell wrote to his cousin Robin Hammond, who was guarding the King on the Isle of Wright: “I profess to thee a desire from my heart, I’ve prayed for it, I have waited for the day to see the union and right understanding between the Godly people (Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists and all).”
Placing the King On Trial135 men were nominated to the High Court of Justice and the trial of the King began on 8 January, 1648. The trial was held in the ancient Westminster Palace which had originally been built in the time of the Norman William Rufus. In it Sir Thomas More, Guy Fawkes and the Earl of Strafford had been tried.
Convicting Charles of TreasonThe indictment against the King read that he had by “wicked design” erected and upheld in himself “an unlimited and tyrannical power…to overthrow the rights and liberties of the people.” That he had “traitorously and maliciously levied war against the present Parliament and the people…” and that he was “a tyrant, traitor and murderer, and a public and implacable enemy to the Commonwealth of England.”
Evidence was brought forward of the illegal taxes, arbitrary imprisonments, mutilations, tortures and executions of people whose only crime had been to disagree with the King on matters of Faith and ethics and that he had trampled upon the Common Law of England and the Chartered Rights guaranteed by the Magna Carta.
The prosecutor argued that “there is a contract and a bargain made between the King and his people…a bond of protection…is due from the Sovereign; the other is the bond of subjection that is due from the subject….if this bond is ever broken, farewell sovereignty!…The authority of a ruler is valid only so long as he can provide protection in return.” But the King had made war against his own subjects.
Despite Charles’ attempt to disrupt and derail the proceedings, the death warrant was signed by 59 of the Commissioners. Cromwell described the execution of Charles on 30 January 1649 as “a cruel necessity.”
New ThreatsWhen Charles II promised that he would impose Presbyterianism upon the Realm, the Scottish Presbyterians mobilized to fight their Protestant Brethren in England. A Catholic uprising in Ireland also threatened the new Republic. The Council of State appointed Oliver Cromwell as Lord General of a new army to deal with the Catholic threat in Ireland.
Knowing that he still had to deal with the Scottish threat, Cromwell determined to subdue the Irish as quickly, and as finally, as possible. His first action on reaching Ireland was to forbid any plunder or pillage. Two men were hanged for disobeying that order. At Drogheda, Cromwell’s forces crushed the Catholic stronghold in a ferocious battle. He then moved to Wexford, long a thorn in the side of English traders as a centre of Piracy. As the town refused to surrender, after an intense 8-day siege, it was put to the sword. Cromwell prayed that “this bitterness will save much blood through the goodness of God.”
After subduing the major strongholds of resistance in Ireland, Cromwell learned that Charles II had landed in Scotland. He left Ireton to complete the mopping operations in Ireland and returned to England.
The Scottish CampaignYoung Charles II had signed the Scots National Covenant and Solemn League and Covenant, swearing to maintain Presbyterianism in his household and in all his dominions. Charles II was crowned King at Scone, in Scotland. Lord Fairfax, the Supreme Commander of the Parliamentary Forces refused to lead an English army into Scotland – because he was a Presbyterian. Fairfax was relieved of command and Oliver Cromwell was appointed Supreme Commander of the Parliamentary Forces.
Cromwell Conquers ScotlandWith his usual fearful efficiency, Oliver Cromwell led 16,000 well-equipped and well experienced, determined troops into Scotland. Despite being heavily outnumbered, and trapped by superior forces, Cromwell decisively defeated the Scottish Army at Dunbar on 3 September, 1650. He seized 10,000 prisoners and soon occupied Edinburgh and Leith.
Reasoning with the Scottish PresbyteriansCromwell attempted to reason with his Scottish neighbours: “Our brethren of Scotland, are we to be dealt with as enemies because” we do not agree with you on all points? “Are you sure that your league with wicked and carnal men is a Covenant of God? I pray you read Isaiah 28.”
“I beseech you in the mercies of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken…are you troubled that Christ is preached? Is preaching so inclusive in your function?” He argued and reasoned for liberty of conscience and religious toleration. Cromwell’s persuasions were somewhat successful as numerous Covenanters chose neutrality thereafter.
The Victory of the IndependentsOn 3 November, 1651, a year after the battle at Dunbar, Cromwell’s forces defeated another Scottish army at Worcester. Charles II’s massive army of 30,000 was put to flight and scattered. It was remarkable that the Presbyterians, the Arminian Episcopals and the Catholics had co-operated together to fight the Protestant Parliament of England. Each of these three groups believed in the tradition of a single faith in a single land. And they were willing to co-operate with their most determined enemies in order to crush the Independent Calvinists, Baptists and Congregationalists of Parliament.
Cromwell’s TriumphThe victory at Worcester was to be Oliver Cromwell’s last battle. He was now 52 years old. In campaign after campaign Oliver Cromwell had triumphed, often over vastly superior forces numerically. Cromwell’s tactics had proven themselves time and again. He was welcomed back to London in triumph in September 1651. He was now at the height of his power and prestige. As Captain General of the Army and as a member of the Council of State, Oliver Cromwell’s position in England was unassailable.
The English Royalists had been bled white, decisively defeated time and again. Charles I had been executed, Charles II had fled to France. The Second Civil War had ended. England was firmly under the control of the Parliamentary Forces. Ireland was subdued. Scotland had been conquered. The three kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland were united under the Parliamentary government in London.
Parliamentary DilemmasHowever, the situation that confronted Oliver Cromwell upon his return to London was most disturbing. In his absence England had declared war on Protestant Holland. This was the first war in English history that was fought primarily for economic reasons. Cromwell was horrified that the English Republic should have waged war against the Protestant Dutch. He depreciated the Licensing Acts and Treason Acts, which overrode customary liberties. The war with Holland was resented by the New Model Army. The soldiers wanted to know when they would see the Reforms for which they had fought.
When Parliament refused to renew the Commission for the Propagation of the Gospel in Wales – the army’s favourite instrument for evangelising that politically unstable country - it created a storm. Oliver Cromwell was outraged: “This we apprehended would have been throwing away the liberties of the nation into the hands of those who never fought for it.”
Parliamentary IntoleranceAs parliamentary intolerance and interference in the religious liberty of the Independents increased, Oliver Cromwell gathered some soldiers and, accompanied by Major-General Thomas Harrison, he entered Parliament, sat down and listened to the discussions. At length he rose and calmly began to speak of his concern that Parliament had become “a self-perpetuating Oligarchy” unfit to govern England. He condemned the members of Parliament as drunkards and whoremasters.
Ending the Long Parliament“You are no Parliament. I say, you are no Parliament! I will put an end to your sittings.” He turned to Harrison and ordered “call them in; call them in.” Soldiers appeared and Cromwell told them to clear the room. The members left, some under protest. This ended the Long Parliament that had dethroned the King, abolished the House of Lords, created a new government and won a revolution – only to be itself abolished.
A New ParliamentCromwell called for a new Parliament of 140 members. Some of these were chosen by churches, others by various generals, 5 were from Scotland, 6 were from Ireland, London Puritans predominated. In short order this Parliament reviewed the judicial system and voted to abolish the Court of Chancery, tenants were provided protection against arbitrary expulsions. For the first time in English history marriages were made possible by Civil Ceremony. Their proposals not to execute pick-pockets and horse thieves for first offences shocked the lawyers. Many of these reforms were constructive, but they alienated the population by seeking to abolish tithes. Concerned that Parliament was seeking to undermine the Church and secure ownership of property, the Army grew impatient and persuaded the members to voluntarily dissolve.
A New ConstitutionA committee produced a constitution, titled The Instrument of Government. On 16 December, 1653, Oliver Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. This was an elective position and not for life, nor hereditary. The Lord Protector was to be the Chief Executive, assisted by a Council of 15 members (8 civilians and 7 army officers). Parliament was to retain the power alone to levy taxes and grant supply to the government. Nor could the Protector dissolve Parliament while it was in session.
Religious FreedomOliver Cromwell believed in an established, non-Episcopal, Evangelical church with full toleration of dissent and separate congregations. His position was fully supported by the Baptists, Congregationalists and other Independents. The new government was silent on rites, ceremonies and sacraments. How to administer the Lord’s Supper or Baptism was left to each congregation. Church government was to be congregational, allowing for Presbyterian, Independent, Baptist and Episcopal congregations. Any form of Protestant worship was permitted.
The Arts FlourishedWriters found the Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell far more lenient than his bureaucratic predecessors. Literature flourished and the Calvinist love of poetry appeared everywhere. Christmas once again became festive. Musical entertainments and theatre, which had been prohibited under the Presbyterian Parliament, now were encouraged under the Puritan Protectorate. The first full-length, five-act English opera (The Siege of Rhodes) in 1656 premiered under the Protector. Women were again allowed to wear makeup. Even play readings which satirized the government were allowed. It was during the Commonwealth that the violin became popular and that solo singing began to be enjoyed.
Foreign PolicyIn terms of foreign policy, Oliver Cromwell promptly made peace with Holland. The British Navy crossed the ocean and restored Virginia and the Barbados Islands to England. In the summer of 1654, the Lord Protector summoned the Spanish Ambassador and told him that Englishmen in Spanish territories should have the liberty to worship as they pleased, free of the Inquisition, and that English traders should no longer be molested. The negative response of the Ambassador prompted Cromwell to send an English fleet to San Domingo, and to Jamaica. The expedition to Jamaica succeeded in conquering this previously Spanish territory. Cromwell dreamed that Calvinists from New England would settle there. Unfortunately, it became, another Barbados, a place for the English to ship their criminals and rebels.
Defeating the Barbary PiratesIn April 1655, Admiral Blake led the English Navy into the pirate stronghold of Tunis, in North Africa, destroying the Bey’s ships and forcing the sultan to release all English prisoners and slaves. Oliver Cromwell sent his warm congratulations on this decisive act against the Barbary pirates, and ordered Blake to proceed to Cadiz to intercept Spanish ships carrying treasure from the New World.
Defending the WaldensiansIn May 1655 the Catholic Duke of Savoy unleashed a vicious persecution against the Protestant Huguenots in the Vadois (or Waldenses’) Valley. Newspapers in England reported “a devilish crew of priests and Jesuits leading unspeakable atrocities” against their Protestant brethren. Oliver Cromwell immediately sent an agent to the scene whose report verified the persecution. The Lord Protector headed a subscription list that raised several hundred thousand pounds for the relief of the Waldensian victims. He then brought pressure to bear upon the Duke to stop the campaign. The threat of mobilizing English Navy and the New Model Army quickly sobered the Duke of Savoy and the Waldensians survive to this day.
Social JusticeOliver Cromwell turned his attention to cruelty to animals and banned cock fights and bear baits. Vagrants who often were involved in drunkenness and theft were swept up by the military, evaluated by officers and either imprisoned or sent to forced labour outside the country.
Freedom for the JewsCromwell then invited Jews to return to England. Jews had been officially expelled from England in 1290. The Puritan Protector now launched a campaign for their return. Cromwell did not theologically approve of Jews, Unitarians, or any group that denied the Divinity of Christ, but he favoured freedom of religion and to see the fulfillment of prophesy by Jews being brought to Salvation in Christ.
Cromwell hosted Menasseh Ben Israel at White Hall. This earned Cromwell much opposition, especially from London merchants who foresaw fearsome competition from this close-knit network. On 4 December, 1655, Oliver Cromwell made a speech, sometimes described as one of his best, which smothered the objections of the Council to the re-admittance of Jews to England.
Surviving Conspiracies and ThreatsCromwell was frequently burdened by the costs of war against Spain. His Head of Security, Thurloe, uncovered numerous plots to murder the Protector. Those Jews who returned to England flourished, and many proved most useful to England’s survival by providing vital intelligence, through their international commercial network, of the conspiracies against the Commonwealth from Spain.
A Refuge for the PersecutedNot only did the Protector welcome Jews to England, but Protestants of all nations. The University of Oxford received an influx of distinguished foreign Protestant professors. Education profited immensely from the Commonwealth and the Calvinists.
Refusing the CrownCromwell refused offers of the Crown declaring that he “cannot undertake this government with the title of King.” The whole of Europe was astonished, but Calvinists hailed the decision as proof that Cromwell did not bow down before the honors of this world.
Victory Against SpainIn June 1658 6,000 English soldiers defeated the Spanish in Mardyk, Gravelines and Dunkirk. This finally secured the freedom of Protestant Holland from what had previously been the Spanish Netherlands.
The House of Lords RestoredOliver Cromwell restored the House of Lords, declaring: “Unless you have such a thing as balance, we cannot be safe…”
The Limits of ToleranceCromwell’s religious toleration even led to him having talks with George Fox of the Quakers. When a well-known Quaker preacher, James Naylor, rode in triumph into Bristol on a donkey to the cries of “Hosanna!” from his hysterical supporters who changed Naylor’s name to Jesus, the parliamentary authorities arrested Naylor for blasphemy and sentenced him to whipping, branding, and life imprisonment. Cromwell was appalled and sought alleviate the sentence, but was informed that he could not.
Oliver Cromwell has frequently been blamed for many of the excesses of the Commonwealth Parliament. However much of these extremes, such as the banning of Christmas, and closing down of theatres, was done by the Presbyterian Parliament, and rescinded by the Puritan Protector.
The Protestant AllianceOliver Cromwell sought to build up a Protestant League throughout Northern Europe. He settled disputes between Denmark and Sweden, concluded an alliance with Sweden, restored the supremacy of the seas to England, and even challenged the Catholic powers and Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean.
During the times of Oliver Cromwell, England was feared and respected throughout Europe. Cromwell formed a strong alliance between Holland and England, negotiated peace between the Protestant nations, cleared the English Channel and the Mediterranean Sea of pirates, expanded foreign trade and worked enthusiastically for the evangelism of Indians in North America. During the time of Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate, the whole world learned to respect British sea power. Cromwell became known as the Champion of Protestantism, a arbiter of Europe, a patron of learning and of the Arts and a tireless worker to lay legal foundations and checks and balances for the Parliamentary rule of England.
The ProtectorWhile some have sought to describe Oliver Cromwell as dictator, there was no attempt to make any kind of party around the personality of Protector, respect was always shown for private property, and an effective and vocal opposition was always tolerated. Very few people were put to death under the Protectorate. And none for purely political crimes. No one was cast into prison without trial.
A Heritage of FreedomLiberty of conscience and freedom of the press flourished under Oliver Cromwell. Religious toleration reached new heights - unprecedented up until that time. It is remarkable that in that bitter time of conflict, Oliver Cromwell could write: “We look for no compulsion but that of light and reason.”
Parliament, through the English Civil War had swept away the remains of Feudalism. Oliver Cromwell pioneered the New Model Army, created the world’s first global sea power, laying the basis for both the Industrial Revolution and the British Empire, and preserved the Common Law.
Otto Scott in “The Great Christian Revolution” concludes that: “Luther and Knox and Cromwell and Calvin lifted millions from the swamps in which they were placed by elegant men in power.” He noted that the foundational work of Oliver Cromwell in establishing checks and balances for the Rule of Law triumphed in the United States of America as people inspired by his example instituted many of the same principles of government, and restrictions on power, in their nation as Cromwell had worked so hard to achieve in England.
Otto Scott writes: “Our War of Independence…raised men like Cromwell’s, who fought like Cromwell’s, for the same reason that Cromwell fought. The men at Philadelphia echoed the history of the 1640’s and 1650’s when they wrote the constitution with it’s limitations on the powers of congress, the presidency and the court…. when they said in the constitution that this nation would not have an established church, they reflected the experience of their forebearers with Laud and his successors. When they spoke about open doors to all, open careers to all, they spoke in accents of Cromwell and the Calvinists, the Independents and the Congregationalists and the Puritans and the Presbyterians and the Levellers and those who fought under these banners. All this and more came from the great Christian Revolution; all the liberties that men know have come from Christianity, from it’s lessons about the individual and the state; God and His Covenant…to fulfill God’s Word by bringing justice, truth, faith and joy to the world.”
A Vision for World MissionsUnder Oliver Cromwell The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England was established. An enormous sum of money was donated towards this first Evangelical missionary society. Cromwell was keenly interested in evangelisation of the Red Indians and he proposed a comprehensive plan for world evangelism – dividing up the world into four great mission fields. Unfortunately, the death of Oliver Cromwell and the restoration of the Monarch in England under Charles II set back the cause of missionaries.
Chief of MenJohn Milton wrote:
“Cromwell, our chief of men, who through a cloud
Not of war only, but detractions rude,
guided by Faith, and matchless fortitude,
to peace and truth, the glorious way hast plowed,
And on the neck of crowned fortune proud,
Hast reared God’s trophies, and His work pursued,
while Darwen stream, with blood of Scots imbued,
And Dunbar field, resounds thy praised loud,
And vistas Laureate Wreath.
Yet much remains to conquer still; peace hath her victories
No less renowned than war; new foes arise,
Threatening to bind our souls with Secular chains.
Help us to save the conscience from the poor
Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their naw.”
One of the Greatest English Leaders of All TimePresident Theodore Roosevelt in his book on Oliver Cromwell described him as: “The greatest Englishman of the 17 th century…the greatest soldier statesman of the 17 th century…”whose sacrifices and achievements “have produced the English speaking world as we at present know it.”
Theodore Roosevelt makes comparisons with the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Oliver Cromwell, and the American War of Independence with the English Civil War.
Theodore Roosevelt concluded that, in his opinion, Oliver Cromwell was: “one of the greatest of all Englishmen, and by far the greatest ruler of England itself, …a man who, in times that tried men’s souls, dealt with vast questions and solved tremendous problems; a man who erred…but who strove mightily towards the Light as it was given him to see the Light; a man who had the welfare of his countrymen and the greatness of his country very close to his heart, and who sought to make the great laws of righteousness living forces in the government of the world.”
Dr Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74
Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: (021) 689 4480
Fax: (021) 685 5884
The Great Christian Revolution by Otto Scott, Uncommon Books, 1994
Oliver Cromwell by Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1900
Cromwell by John Buchan, Hodder and Stoughton, 1934
A History of the English Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill, Cassell and Co., 1956
Great Sovereigns, Heroes and Pioneers – Cromwell vols. 1 & 2 by Rev. M. Russell, Werner, 1910
The Protector by d’Aubigne
Oliver Cromwell’s Letters and Speeches , edited by Thomas Carisle, in two volumes, Wiley and Putnam, 1845