Intercepted Mail: A Letter from the Ninth Convention to Brackel in 1683 #History #Scotland

•January 28, 2016 • 1 Comment


At the beginning of June, 1683, Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun and Edward Aitkin were captured on a ship off Tynemouth.

Among the papers seized was a letter that Earlstoun was carrying from the Societies’ ninth convention in Edinburgh on 8 May to Wilhelmus à Brakel, a Dutch minister in Leeuwarden, Friesland.

William BrackelWilliam Brackel

The intercepted letter contained intelligence about a secret organisation that the authorities knew very little about, the United Societies. Following their outrage over the public proclamation of the Lanark Declaration at the beginning of 1682, the Scottish authorities had come close to encountering the Societies’ conventions. In June, John Graham of Claverhouse had heard word about their third convention at Talla Linn. In August, the fourth convention had a narrow escape when the Edinburgh house it was in was overlooked in a search. Intelligence about the seventh convention at Myres was misinterpreted as being about a field preaching.

The capture of Earlstoun and the Societies’ papers with him was a breakthrough moment for the regime, as he was the key in the Societies’ dealings with Dutch sympathizers, Scots exiles and radical English Whigs.

What does the letter from the convention reveal? It reveals that the Societies were holding conventions which were in correspondence with William Brackel in Leeuwarden, Friesland. Second, that the Society people had a Dutch support base there and that Earlstoun had been, and his family still were, in exile there. Third, that the Societies had other ‘commissioners’ abroad and, perhaps of greater concern, ‘students’ in training for the ministry at a university who would soon return to Scotland and reignite field preaching. Clearly, the Societies were prepared to provoke confrontation and face future repression secure in their apocalyptic expectation. Faced with what they saw as fanaticism, it may have been of some comfort to the authorities that the Societies considered that ‘our enemies are strong, and increasing within and without, and on every hand.’

The convention’s letter is as follows:

‘Right reverend Sir,

The receipt of your first letter [to the convention in the late summer of 1682] did not a little encourage us to set about the duties of the day, and to hold on in the way of the Lord. We cannot well excuse our long silence in not writing to you, (unto whom. we are so much obliged) but when we consider the first; part of your letter, which contains so much of self-denial, and a commendation put upon us, far above our deserving, it puts us to a stand what to write: And more so, when we essay to put pen to paper; we see so much, weakness in ourselves, that we fear our letters (when written) be little to the edification of either you or others: But knowing you to be such, as can pass by the infirmities of the weak, (according to the example of the apostle Paul) together with your ardent desire to know our state, makes us (though in weakness) write this line to you. We wrote an answer to it before [at the fifth convention in October, 1682, see ‘An Informatory letter from the United Societies to Mr William Brackel minister in Holland 1682’, EUL MSS. La.III.350. No. 57.], and sent it by post, but we hear the same has been intercepted, and not come to your hand, but only a copy; we received also another letter of the date February l9th, (comfortable and refreshing to us indeed) and your last of the date March 14th, from [Alexander Gordon of] Earlstoun, one of our honourable commissioners, whose presence has not been a little refreshing to us under our present distresses and labyrinths of difficulties; together with the heart-comforting and hand-strengthening account he has given of the Lord’s condescending to us in our low condition, when we were [>p75.] become as strangers, and aliens in our mother’s house, to raise up fathers, brothers and sisters to us in a strange land [i.e., in Friesland], who give such eminent proofs of their being so to us, by their accepting and welcoming of our message; and also, by their fatherly care of, and kindness to our honourable commissioners [i.e., Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun and Robert Hamilton], and the students sent by us [i.e. James Renwick, John Flint and William Boyd]; and also that worthy lady [Earlstoun] and her children [in exile, certainly Ann and possibly ‘the young laird’], who could not get rest for the sole of their feet in their own native country. For which, and the like eminent favours we acknowledge ourselves altogether out of a capacity to render a recompence, and therefore must remain debtors; only we desire to believe, that our Lord who has conferred such favours upon us, will also accomplish his promise, who hath said, He that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man, shall receive a righteous man’s reward:

This Letter, we say, has occasioned great joy in the hearts of all (especially that part which concerns the coming home of the students) who are truly longing to hear the sound of the feet of these who bring the glad tidings of salvation. This is a ground of encouragement for us to hope that our God is returning to covenanted Scotland, to ride prosperously on the white horse of the gospel, conquering and to conquer; and to be head and king over his church. We acknowledge the goodness and mercy of the Lord in this to be very great, in remembering us in our poor condition, and in opening a door of hope in this manner (all praise and glory be to him for it) when all other doors seemed to be shut, refuges failed us upon the right and left hand, to learn us not to look to the hills and mountains for salvation, (which alas. we have too much done) but unto himself. O noble exercise! to be looking unto, and depending upon the Lord for all things, both spiritual and temporal; for what want we but he hath to give? and not only hath to give, but is willing to give to such as seek in faith. And also we acknowledge the Lord’s goodness in raising you up to be instrumental in this great work, (for which ye will not want your reward) and we count ourselves greatly indebted to you, (much honoured of the Lord) for which, and all other favours conferred by you upon us, we give you and the godly with you, hearty thanks. [>p76.]

Now we shall give you (dear Sir) a short hint of our case and condition at the time. Once it might have been said of this church, that she looked forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as army with banners: We had the light of the glorious gospel: we were made to drink the pure blood of the grape; and the sons of the alien were made our plowmen; we gave away ourselves in covenant to be the Lords, But alas! have left our first love; we that once were the head, are now become the tail, and these to whom we were a terror, are become a terror to us; Our crown is fallen from our head, wo unto us that we have sinned: We halve fallen by our iniquity; we have sinned away the precious gospel, the food of our souls; and the blessed Comforter that should relieve us, is withdrawn: Our enemies are strong, and increasing within and without, and on every hand. These things should not only be matter of mourning and lamentation to us before the Lord, but even to all the truly godly who hear of them, Therefore we desire and invite all the lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to be among the number of the passersbye, and of them that care for none of these things; but sincerely to sympathize with us, and lay out our case before the Lord, and plead with him in our behalf, that he would yet arise and have mercy on Zion, and let the time to favour her come, O noble work! this cause has prevailed and will prevail; for all that we have been, or are, may be trysted with from cruel enemies or pretended friends, yet we have no reason to complain; we are punished less than our iniquity deserves; Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins. Yea we have ground to say, The lines are fallen to us in pleasant places, we have a goodly heritage: We are honoured with a noble privilege, to be counted worthy to suffer shame and reproach, robbing, spoiling and martyring for the name of precious Christ,—whereas many have ardently desired to give a proof of their love this way, and have not obtained it; For well is that word made out in our days, He sends none a warfare upon their own charges. Why should we fear, since he hath promised to be with us both in the fire and in the water? Who would not suffer with him that they may reign with him? Since there is a cross laid down at every one’s door by our Lord, why should we not take it up, and bear it for his sake, and follow him whithersoever he [>p77.] goes? for he hath bought a blessing to crosses at a dear rate; our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us afar more exceeding, and eternal weight of glory. O! noble, and weighty crown of glory, that they who endure to the end get! Here is enough though we be under persecution all our days, and though the yoke of oppression, be wreathed faster about our necks; it sets us to be silent, and not to quarrel at his dispensations, though they seem dark: And though he should cause us all to fall in the wilderness for our murmurings and quarrelings with him; what is the matter, if he be glorified? Let us die in the faith of it, that he will have a Remnant, in whom he will be glorified, and a seed to serve him in this land, and that he will return, and dwell among them.

This is indeed an evil time, even a time of Jacob’s trouble; but here is comfort, he shall be saved out of it, and the yoke shall be broken from off his neck, and his bands will be burst, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him, And though it be said at this time, that Zion is an out-cast, whom no man seeketh after, yet our Lord has promised to restore health unto her, and heal her of her wounds, Arid we may say, to the commendation of his grace, he hath not left us comfortless, for he is pleased to go with us through the fire, and through the waters, so that we might (if we could either write, or speak) invite all, to come and behold what wondrous works the Lord hath shown to us, and among us, that there need none be afraid to venture upon the like, or worse sufferings than these which we have seen, and are put to, since we can say if now from experience, that he bears us and our burdens both. And we desire to put a blank in his hand for the future, and say, Amen, to it, if he see it fit, for the further manifestation of the glory of his free grace, and power, to heat our furnace yet seven times hotter, if one, like the Son of man be with us in it, we have enough.

And dear Sir, since your letters hitherto, have been so refreshing and comfortable, in our sorrowful and distressed case; we hope ye will yet be pleased to confer that favour upon us, as to write, and let us hear from you, both for counsel, and encouragement, for we are hopeful the more that ye give of this kind, yc shall get the more to give. [>p78.]

Thus recommending you to his grace, who walks among the candlesticks, and holds the stars in his right hand; We remain your, &c.

Subscribed in our name, and at our appointment &c. [probably by Michael Shields, the clerk of the convention.]’ (Shields, FCD, 74-8.)

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Letter of William Brackel to the United Societies, February, 1683 #History #Scotland

•January 26, 2016 • 1 Comment

In February, 1683, William Brackel, a Dutch minister in Leeuwarden, wrote in reply to a letter from the United Societies’ fifth convention. It had taken him four months to reply and it would be a further three months until his letter arrived. Something was wrong with the Society people’s international correspondence across the North Sea … but what was it?

Leeuwarden 2


Map of Leeuwarden

The letter was mainly concerned with encouraging the Society people to continue to adhere to their cause in the face of martyrdoms. However, it opens with a warning that the Societies’ previous letter may have been intercepted, as only a copy had come into his hands.

It then discusses the near capture of the fourth convention in Edinburgh, when an alarm had forced them to disperse and remove out of burgh for safety.

The main news content of the letter was that the Societies’ students at Groningen would be examined and ordained in a very short time frame. However, the Societies did not receive Brackel’s letter until Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun brought it, and a second letter from him, to the ninth convention on 8 May, 1683. The interception and delays in the correspondence between Brackel and the Convention meant that there was no direct communication between them after the arrival of the news that students could be sent to the United Provinces for ordination in the autumn of 1682 and the ordination of James Renwick in May, 1683.

Given the disputes within the Societies over the mission to achieve ordination in the United Provinces, it is possible that some hand, or hands, within the Societies had deliberately kept Brackel and the Convention in the dark about each other. However, there were also clear problems with the coordination of communications in the Societies’ international network. John Nisbet, the Societies’ agent in London, struggled to correspond with Earlstoun in the United Provinces and the reply from the ninth convention to Brackel went undelivered, as Earlstoun was captured with it at the beginning of June.

William Brackel

William Brackel aka. Wilhelmus à Brakel, was an influential Dutch theologian. He was a minister in Leeuwarden between 1673 and late 1683.

Brackel’s letter is as follows:

‘Most loving fathers and brethren in Christ Jesus our glorious King,

It is not only come to my ears that ye wrote, and sent to me a letter of answer, but also a copy of it is [>p72.] come to my hand [via Earlstoun, Hamilton or Renwick?]; but where itself sticks, or by whom intercepted, I know not.’

Renwick had written to Brackel on 5 October, 1682, however, Brackel’s letter appears to refer to the interception of the fifth convention’s ‘An Informatory letter from the United Societies to Mr William Brackel minister in Holland 1682’. (EUL MSS. La.III.350. No. 57.)

‘It rejoiceth my soul greatly to know your affairs both, by the foresaid copy [of the letter from the fifth convention], and also by your letters sent to us; especially the miraculous divine protection of you makes me both greatly to admire and rejoice; who being couragious and busied in your [fourth] convention [in August, 1682], by taking a care of your church-affairs, did see the cruel enemies even threatening death, seeking you, even compassing about the house, stricken with a certain Sodomitish blindness that they could not enter.

How admirable are the works of God! how unsearchable is his deep goodness! truly we find that he hath favour and mercy towards his saints, and perpetual care towards the elect; truly he is a fiery wall about Jerusalem, and his angels compass about those that fear him, and delivers them. He that sits under the covert of the Most High, shall lodge under the shadow of him that is omnipotent. Let praise and glory be, sung to: our Lord, by all who hear these things, both angels and men. It is needful that this experience of the most efficacicus presence of God should strengthen your confidence; that he who delivered you out of the mouth of bear and lion, shall also in the time to come deliver you from all dangers that shall fall in your lot, to the glory of his waited-for divine defence. But if God should suffer this or that man, or even many, to fall into the hands of enemies, or rather that he himself should give them; by this ye shall be taught experience, that that has not fallen out because of the defect of divine protection, but that God has called them out, name by name, for a testimony of himself; yea, although they should seem to die in the eyes of enemies, and their end to be an ignominious affliction, yet they, I say, go away in peace, and are crowned with a joyful crown and immortality. Neither are the martyrs of the church of Scotland killed, that it may be extirpate, but that it may be builded; for the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church: the church was founded by blood, and it grew by blood. The more cruelly Pharaoh oppressed the people of God, the more fertilely they were multiplied. We are very desirous of the coming of the Lord; saying, we wish that salvation may come out of Zion; when the Lord shall turn again the captivity of his people, Jacob shall be glad, and Israel shall rejoice. But let no man cast down his heart, because [<p73.] God is only trying your patience; he is also making our way plain, and a way to himself, to his greater glory in all lands. Would Israel been more happy if he had been delivered out of less oppression in Egypt? Was not his deliverance the more glorious, the heavier the persecution was? Wait therefore for the salvation of the Lord: how great shall his goodness be which he hath laid up for them that fear him, which he hath prepared for those that betake themselves to him, before the sons of men. Shew yourselves men in the time of distress. Let him that is weak in strength, leaning upon his head, say, I am a man of excellent valour. He that hath God near unto him (as is made known to you by many, both public and private experiences) from no man would fear either threatenings, swords or ropes. Learned men, great men, albeit godly, of great name, err in this matter; but God hath chosen these that were fools in the world, as wise; these that were weak, as strong; the ignoble, and those of no esteem, that he might bring to disgrace those who are in honour. In the mean time, let unanimity, love, fervency of mind, gladness in justification remain among you; and out of these, holiness, and a perpetual intercourse os the soul with God. This one thing I exhort you, that every one may teach another; the fathers, mothers, aged and more learned, may teach the little ones, and others who are more ignorant of the way of the Lord, the fundamentals of religion; lest any should perish thro’ lack of knowledge, or lest any should waver in the true faith.

The three students chosen by you to the pastoral office [James Renwick, John Flint and William Boyd] are busy at their studies [in Groningen]; the fourth [John Nisbet] we are waiting for [to come from London]: By God’s grace we hope you shall see them [in] the next year, and hear them preaching.

Since the time that I have known your estate, I have judged it necessary that certain men, endued with the Holy Ghost, piety, authority and years, should be chosen for tha pastoral office, and should be sent unto us, for the space of one or two months, that they might be instructed in the method of forming of preachings, and some other things. Next that they should be examined in a lawful way by some pastor in an ecclesiastic convention, (let not little knowledge deter any man) and in the name of the Lord sent unto his vineyard, and be confirmed in that office by the imposition of hands [i.e., ordination]; and so return to you in such a state of the church. I care not [>p74.] much for the knowledge of tongues, and literal instruction, although in itself, in other circumstances I think much of it; for not by the defect of learning, but of the Spirit and piety, is the church of Scotland brought into so miserable a condition; and I think it is not to be restored by learning, but by the Spirit and piety. I propose thir things to you, that you may seriously consider that thing of so great moment; and that ye may either do or reject that shall think fit. The Lord be a sun and shield unto you. And, I am,

Your lover, and promoted minister,
Feb. 9th 1683.
William Brackel.’ (Shields, FCD, 71-4.)

The Ninth convention replied on 8 May, 1683, but the letter was intercepted when Earlstoun was taken.

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The Ninth Convention’s Paper to the Rye House Plotters, May, 1683 #History #Scotland

•January 25, 2016 • 1 Comment

Rye House Plot Execution

On 8 May, 1683, the ninth convention of the United Societies held in secret in Edinburgh sent a paper to the ‘Confederators’, a group of English radical Whigs behind a series of insurrectionary and assassination plots tht are commonly known as the Rye House Plots.

The paper was to be taken to London by Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun and Edward Aitken.

The paper is notable for the light it sheds on the divisive debates between the moderate and militant Scottish presbyterian factions that were both involved in discussions with the plotters in London.

It is also remarkable for its admission that the Society people had taken the very radical step of their convention assuming the powers of the Nation and Parliament. According to the paper, the moderate detractors of the Societies were ‘pleased to say that we assume the legislative powers of the nation, and the power of Parliament to us’. The paper sought to explain that by replying that ‘We declare, all that have done, or are doing in that kind, is but merely to make our testimony and procedure against the present course of affairs more legal and strong’.

The paper was later printed in Michael Shields, Faithful Contendings Displayed, p67-71.

The Reasons of the sufferings and actings of the true (though greatly reproached, and persecuted) presbyterian, Anti-Prelatick, Anti-Erastian Party in Scotland.

We cannot but sadly regret in the very entry, the occasions of such vindications, as we are forced to make in this critical age, wherein for the most part, all true principles of government and religion are like to be overturned: And when any are contending for these, they are immediately branded as enemies to government and magistracy, one of the most excellent ordinances of God, when kept within due bounds and limits set down by him in his word; and when use of for the ends proposed therein. This we say we have reason to regret, yet ought not to discourage any, or deter them from that which we are bound unto; although many have been whedled out of both reason and religion, yet this makes us put pen to paper, that thereby these who are honestly principled as to both, may be strengthened, and we vindicated: So that when the grounds are laid down, and procedures laid to the rule, it may be seen whose courses are most aberrant, or differing therefrom.

Therefore we shall touch upon some of these heads which are most carped at by our enemies.

1st, The first grand business is the casting off the Tyrant’s authority, and power to middle therewith, and what length we stretch that power: As for the manner of doing thereof, it is narrated in the Lanerk Declaration, so we shall not touch thereon, but as a preamble shall narrate somewhat of the grounds upon which we walked. First, it is an undoubted principle amongst all state-men, that in a general defection, these who in that nation adheres closest to the ancient laws, liberties, and constitutions, are the truest and most freeborn subjects; for laws being made for the government of the whole nation, every member within the same, prince, people are equally obliged thereto, and in all breaches upon either hand recourse must be had to the rule. This is not denied by any sound states-men, and contradicted by none, Barclay and other court Parasites excepted: Yea it is so clear, that nature taught Heathens themselves, from whom we have our civil laws, that they never gave their princes more, yea the princes themselves required no more, but thought it their greatest honour to be subject to the laws, as can be clearly seen in the whole body of the civil law. But why should we go thus far? (If it were not to answer such quibblers in their own coin) for if we look to the constitutions set down [>p69.] by God in his word, we will find all alongst that the laws are to be the supreme judge, whereby the actions of both magistrates and people are to be judged; and where magistrates and rulers walk contrary thereto, the opposing of them, and revolting from under them, are approven by God; and where they are not revolted from, nor testified against, but joined with, and homologate; we find at such times their sins charged upon the people, and the people plagued therefore.

This being considered, give sufficient ground to us in the most legal and public way possible; (that as our sin was public, our contrary testimony might also be public) this, we say, gave the occasion to us to testify against, resist, and reject the authority, the exercise of which was tyranny, oppression and usurpation, in matters civil and ecclesiastic, as we have done by our declarations and testimonies. But whereas some are pleased to say that we assume the legislative powers of the nation, and the power of Parliament to us.— We declare, all that have done, or are doing in that kind, is but merely to make our testimony and procedure against the present course of affairs more legal and strong; that as we have eminent and public hand in the sin, and setting up the idol of jealousy, so we may have an eminent and public hand in pulling of it down: And when it shall please the Lord to send us well-constitute judicatories, we shall desire to have, or assume no more but our privileges, in our place and stations, as free born subjects.

Secondly, As to the grounds of our not joining with ministers and professors, or others, who have made defection, we have much to say, which would be tedious, and rather the work of a volume, than of such a paper; but we think that they may be very easily reduced to this rule, which was our ancient rule all along, and our still to continue yet: When joining with persons in the exercise of worship or otherwise, implies a homologating of, or joining with the public sins whereof they are guilty, there we ought to foot a stand, and not join, because the joining is tainted with their guilt, and so sinful; for no sin ought to be joined with, but avoided: But where it does not homologate, nor can no-ways be [>p70.] tainted with the guilt, there we have freedom to join. But this we ought to retort upon the heads of our adversaries, for they are the separatists, and no we; for it is the offenders and not the offended, that only best deserve the name.

Thirdly, As to our making the work of Reformation, and particularly our covenants and late public declarations, and martyrs testimonies on scaffolds, a test, or mark whereby we may know one another, we esteem ourselves to have good ground so to do; for the work of reformation, and several steps thereof, from Popery to this day, as such a linked chain, that there are none that can disown the testimonies of our martyrs, either former or latter, (being considered, every one according to the particular times and seasons when, and dispensations under which they were given) but must certainly disown the whole; for it hath pleased the Lord to make their strain run all one way, and not cross to one another; whereby it may be evidently seen, that they have been all dictated by one spirit. Always hereby including some particular testimonies vitiate by [John] Gib and others, since there many be errors on the one hand as well as on the other: Those, we say, being excluded, we know nothing, nor desire to own nothing that is contrary to scripture and sound reason.

Fourthly, We know likewise, that it hath been scrupled at, our refusing to join issue and interest, or in arms with a malignant party, carrying on malignant designs; however under cunningly busked colours and pretexts, which when searched, are, and have been found out to be but meer cheating or betraying the true cause of God in the land, as we have by sad experience found and smarted for; for we never yet took in, or strove to connive at, or palliate that malignant interest, but the Lord showed evident marks against us: and they are so clearly confuted by the passage of Jehoshaphat, and many other passages in scripture, that we need not take great pains to strike that nail to the head; for our remonstrances, Mr Gillespie, and many others, have redd marches so well, that they have left nothing for us to do, but put our seals to what they have left on record: Neither are we looking for, or expecting an army all of saints, for there will be tares among the wheat, while the time of reaping come: But if we (after the [>p71.] Lord’s so eminently discharging) take the Canaanites into our bosoms, who have made thorns in our eyes, and scourges in our sides: If we (we say) shall confederate with these, and give them places of trust and office with us, whom he has so eminently appeared against, we cannot expect but he will whip us with taws of our own making, since we will not follow his method. And we desire to show all the lovers of Zion, that whosoever confederates with these men of blood and bloody practices, we have just ground to fear that the helpers and the holpen will fall together; and desire to testify against all such confederacies and associations, in the name of the once glorious church of Scotland, there being none of her principles, to take in men against whom the sword of justice should have free course. Therefore whatever shall be acted or done by such confederacies or associations, that no churches, neither foreign nor neighbouring, attribute or ascribe the same to the true church and nation of Scotland, whose laws both of church and state being so just, as they could not admit them to live, much less to rule or officiate, being men of such wicked practices, destructive not only to religion, but civil society.’ (Shields, FCD, 67-71.)

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A Witness to the Execution of Richard ‘Hannibal’ Rumbold in 1685 #History #Scotland

•January 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Rumbold Executed

William Maxwell of Cardoness recorded the brutal execution of one of Argyll’s men, Richard ‘Hannibal’ Rumbold, a Cromwellian veteran and renowned plotter against Charles II, in Edinburgh.

Under 26 June, 1685, he notes:

‘But I must say, many causes of grief and sorrow renewed to me, as yesterday hearing of the death of my dear relation, to-day being witness of the sufferings of [Richard] Rumbold, who was used as a heathen, and not as a Christian, for appearing for the Protestant interest with those who here lately appeared [in the Argyll Rising]. Truly this cannot, on the one hand, but be ground of grief and sorrow, to see such a valiant and courageous man so used, but on the other, ground of comfort that the Lord did so wonderfully carry him through from fainting (notwithstanding of the sad sentence), giving him courage and cheerfulness in the cause : declaring he did not neither durst repent for it, but on the contrair that if all the hair of his head were men, he would venture them all for the cause ; saying also that Christ would appear shortly (yea, some of us there should see it) against His enemies and rule the nations with a rod of iron.

At which these cruel time-servers caused beat the drums: a thing abominable, not to suffer one who was on the brink of eternity to speak their mind. Then praying (being once stopped by the drums beating) with great assurance, forgiving all men, he was barbarously used according to his unjust sentence this same day, which also evidences their cruelty.’ (Reid (ed.), One of King William’s Men, 71-2.)

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‘That place where the Lord delivered a poor handful’: The Battle of Muirdykes (1685) #History #Scotland

•January 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Battle of Muirdykes

William Maxwell of Cardoness recorded his impressions of the battlefield at Muirdykes in his spiritual journal one month after the encounter took place.

Under Saturday, 16 August, 1685, Maxwell recorded:

‘coming from Dalry to Paisley, somewhat sorrowful and afflicted in considering the sad condition of God’s interest and people; especially about Elistone[, now Elliston], where I viewed that place where the Lord delivered a poor handful of His own that jeoparded their lives for His interest, killing some of His avowed enemies, and causing them to retire, of which I received certain information.’ (Reid (ed.), One of King William’s Men, 79.)

Accounts of the battle with was fought on 18 June were recorded by Patrick Hume of Polwarth, George Brysson and Lord Fountainhall.

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‘No more a Presbyterian than the horse he rode upon’: Criticism of Cameron & Cargill #History #Scotland

•January 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Covenanters Preaching

In 1681, James Currie heard criticism of Richard Cameron and Donald Cargill’s militant platform from field preachers in Edinburghshire. Among the critics was George Barclay, who later made it his mission to oppose the militancy of the Society people. At that time, Currie still followed the moderate field preachers. He would later join the Society people in 1683,  leave them for the Russellite societies in 1684 and rejoin them, via his future wife, Helen Alexander, in 1686.

‘In this year, 1681, July 27 th, Mr. Donald Cargil was execute [in Edinburgh]. I had allways a respect for the honest cause and for that dissenting party [of the Society people], though I did not joyn with them with them till afterward [in 1683/4]; but was hearing the [moderate presbyterian] minifters, though with much dissatisfaction. One time when I was desiring a minister to come out and preach in the country, he said, that Mr. Donald Cargil was the worst sight that ever the Church of Scotland saw; with what satisfaction could I hear them? […] Then, in the next year, viz., 1682, while following my [new] employment [as a travelling merchant], I had great debeats with the ministers; for they did allways condemn that poor party [of the Society eople] for the Declaration at Lanrek, which was this year Jany. 12th. One of them, viz., Mr. [George] Barcl[a]y, said the like of that doth no good. I went sometimes to hear them, yet with great reluctance, and sometimes not. I was going one time to hear, and by the way the minister, Mr. Alexander Burnet, said to me, that Mr. Richard Cameron was no more a Presbyterian than the horse he rode upon. At this time the persecution and tryall was great. I do not remember any more remarkable things this year. (Passages in the Lives of Helen Alexander and James Currie of Pentland, 29-30.)

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine

Thomas Douglas Spotted & Hepburn’s field preachings near Mount Lothian #History #Scotland

•January 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

In June, 1680, James Currie met Thomas Douglas soon after the latter’s acrimonious departure from Richard Cameron and his followers. Currie rode south with Douglas. At the same time, John Hepburn held a field preaching near Mount Lothian in Edinburghshire. Currie and Douglas did not attend Hepburn’s preaching.

Mount Lothian

Mount Lothian © Richard Webb and licensed for reuse.

‘After Mr. [Thomas] Douglas came from Mr. [Richard] Cameron [in June 1680], I rode south with him and heard Mr. [John] Hepburn preach; and that Sabbath there was a meeting at Mount Lowdon [i.e., Mount Lothian]; but there came a company of dragoons and scattered the meeting. And there were several taken, but they did get away again; and the minister escaped by hiding himself among the corn. And so I, being absent that day, escaped; and all the preachings we had [in Edinburghshire] were never scailled with troopers except that day. And for all this while (as I said), I was still hearing the [Presbyterian] ministers, but with a sore heart.’ (Passages in the Lives of Helen Alexander and James Currie of Pentland, 29.)

In 1680, Hepburn preached near Mount Lothian in Penicuik parish, Edinburghshire. The preaching may have taken place a short way to the south of  Mount Lothian at Mount Lothian Moss and Cockmuir, that respectively lie in the parishes of Penicuik and Temple, and by the march boundary with Eddleston parish in Peeblesshire.

Map of Mount Lothian                              Street View of Mount Lothian

Map of Mount Lothian Moss and Cockmuir

Maulldslie Farm and Moorfoots

Mauldslie Farm /Moorfoot Hills © Eileen Henderson and licensed for reuse.

Currie also recalled that Hepburn returned to the area and preached in Temple parish in 1683:

‘In the year 1683, Mr. Donald Cargil being dead [since July 1681], we had then no publick preachings; for those [moderate-presbyterian] ministers that were for preaching in houses, laid by, and keeped up no publick Testimony, and some turned merchants. Only Mr. John Rae [captured in early 1683] used sometimes to come to Temple Parish, and sometimes Mr. John Hepburn. I heard them when I heard none of the rest that were condemning the Testimony that was keeped up by these Declarations. And the last of these I heard, for ought I know, was Mr. Hepburn, at Malslie [aka. Mausly], when he reckoned those that had casten off the Magistrates and Ministers, amongst proud doers, though at this time these called Magistrates were turned tyrants. About this time I began to joyn with the [United] Societys that had withdrawn from the generality of the Ministers, upon the account of their complyance with the enemy in not going forth to preach faithfully and freely as they had done formerly. For I had continued with them for some more than three years [i.e., since c.1680], hearing them with little satisfaction; for, as I said, I had sad debeats with them; and this I write that it may be known we [in the Society people] did not withdraw from hearing without ground; for many a sore heart I and others had with them. So I did withdraw from hearing for a little time, and joyned in Societys about Pentland, and the Temple Parish, having great debeats with my old and dear comerads, especially one who was very dear to me; for though he was strict against the Indnlgetices (year 1669), and the Indemnity (year 1679), yet that unhappy difference fell in among us about withdrawing and not withdrawing from the Ministers, as they were then stated, for there were none of them keeping up a publick Testimony, by preaching in any place where they were called, but they lurked and laid by.’ (Passages in the Lives of Helen Alexander and James Currie of Pentland, 30.)

Mauldslie Hill

Mauldslie Hill © Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this reuse.

Malslie, or Mausly, now Mauldslie/Mauldslie Hill, lies in Temple parish by the shire boundary with Berwickshire. Mauldslie may have been an ideal site for a field preaching as lies directly below the Moorfoot Hills. Rough boggy is located around it and above it moorland begins on the crest the of the hills.

Map of Mauldslie               Street View by Mauldslie

Text © Copyright Dr Mark Jardine. All Rights Reserved. Please link to this post on Facebook or other social networks or retweet it, but do not reblog in FULL without the express permission of the author @drmarkjardine