James Renwick’s Letter to Jean Hamilton in Leeuwarden, 20 June 1684 #History #Scotland

•June 20, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Jean Hamilton was the sister of Robert Hamilton and sister-in-law of the imprisoned Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun. She was in regular correspondence with James Renwick.

Renwick wrote in response to a letter from Jean and her ‘troubled case’.

Jean does not know whether to come home to Scotland or not. Renwick desires her to wait on a little in Leeuwarden.

Consideration is also being given by some as to whether Earlstoun’s children should come home. Information on that will soon be sent to Robert Hamilton.

It is printed as Letter Number XXX in Carslaw, Life and Letters, 87-9.

Letter of James Renwick to Robert Hamilton in Leeuwarden, 29 March 1684. #History #Scotland

•March 29, 2022 • Leave a Comment

Nine days after the thirteenth convention at Panbreck, James Renwick wrote to Robert Hamilton in Leeuwarden.

Renwick notes that George Hill, the president of the convention, had given Robert Hamilton a ‘brief touch of things’. He thought to write about Thomas Linning, who was due to train for the ministry at Groningen, but that Hill has ‘spoken my mind’. That seems to hint that Renwick was unsure about Linning’s ordination.

However, Hamilton ‘should take pains with J. F. [John Flint] to wear out that bad impression which James Russel hath given him of us. O deal tenderly with him, for he is but young, yet I hope of zealous intentions. Be concerned of him in that strange place, for he is a child of many prayers. His relations bear a strong affection to the cause, and all who own the same; and your name is very savoury unto them. It is weighty to me, that James Russel hath insinuated himself so much upon him; for being sent abroad was, in some measure, upon expectation that he and I should be together.’ (Houston, Letters, 152-3.)

Flint would join with Russell and later preach to the Russellites, a breakaway faction of the United Societies.

He warns Hamilton that they have enemies on many hands and ‘that man James Russel hath been a costly James Russel to the poor church of Scotland’ (Houston, Letters, 153.)

‘P.S. My love and service to your dear sister [Jean Hamilton] and that banished family which is much upon my heart. Your desire ananet Mr [William] Brackell shall be obeyed.’ (Carslaw, Letters, 87.)

This letter is also printed as Letter Number XXIX in Carslaw, Life and Letters, p85-7.

Letter of James Renwick in #Edinburgh to Robert Hamilton in Leeuwarden, 14 November 1683. #History #Scotland

•November 25, 2021 • Leave a Comment

On 14 November, 1683, James Renwick, who had recently returned to Scotland and begun field preaching, wrote to Robert Hamilton, in Leeuwarden. As ever in their private correspondence, Renwick was frank about the difficulties he perceived in the United Societies. His return to Scotland after ordination as a minister had not gone well.

Renwick was very busy and so sent a short letter. He sees many encouragements and discouragements ‘from several airths I expected not’. In other words, the United Societies were not as pure as he had expected.

He has found some who are ‘cleaving to crooked and perverse ways…and are turned very imbittered against us. At present…we are pestered with a company of prejudiced evil persons, who join hand and issue with backsliders; and make known every thing unto them’ Renwick hopes that they are ‘found out’ so they can proceed against them. (Houston, Letters, 145.)

Some ‘whom I expected to be cordial with, I have not found them so’ chiefly due to ‘his testimony’ which had strengthened some and made others ‘vent more what they were’. This in Renwick’s view divides them for or against the Lord.

Renwick had written a testimony as to what he adhered to in April, just prior to his ordination. It is clear that his testimony was divisive within the Societies. Immediately prior to his death in 1688, he requested that Robert Hamilton destroy his testimony as it was too bitter. Hamilton does not appear to have done so, as it survived.

He notes that George Hill, the preses or president of the Convention, had been especially helpful since his return to Scotland. Hill had attended Renwick’s ordination in Groningen and returned via Dublin with him.

He also recounts the meeting of the eleventh convention at Darmead. This was Renwick’s first convention as a minister and the first he had attended since late 1682. There they read Renwick’s testimony and subscribed papers going to Robert Hamilton. They laid aside the abused oath of secrecy and ordained John Binning of Dalvennan to teach their scholars. (Houston, Letters, 146.)

At the forthcoming twelfth convention, at Woodside near Glasgow on the 28 November, he expects that some other papers will be subscribed, that our scholars, i.e., those preparing to train for the ministry, ‘some of whom we were jealous of’, will be examined and some sought out to be sent to Hamilton with our letters and papers [i.e., the controversial Protest against Scots Congregation in Rotterdam].

This was also going to be divisive, as ‘(that which will be our continual work) a way thought upon for finding out of those whose tongues and hands are so against the Lord.’ (Houston, Letters, 146.)

He also notes he has got through ‘little’ of Scotland yet. Where he has not been he fears ‘an anxiety after the ordinances, than a thirsting after the Lord’ He does not know when in time he will meet Hamilton again. He never would. (Houston, Letters, 146.)

This letter is also printed as Letter XXVII in Carslaw, Life and Letters, 79-81.

A Letter from James Renwick to the Honourable Society of Strangers at Leeuwarden, 13 November, 1683 #History #Scotland

•November 13, 2021 • Leave a Comment

On 13 November, 1683, James Renwick wrote to a small prayer society he had met in Leeuwarden in the United Provinces before he returned to Scotland. It was probably sent with letter XXVII to Robert Hamilton, as he was a member of that society. It is printed as Letter Number XXVI in Carslaw, Life and Letters, 76-9.

Two weeks later, Michael Shields would write on behalf of the United Societies’s twelfth convention to the same prayer society. See Letter from Michael Shields to Society in Leewarden, Friesland. 28th November 1683. (Shields, Faithful Contendings Displayed, 117-19.)

“Let you and me stand and admire this”: James Renwick’s Letter to Robert Hamilton in Leeuwarden, January, 1684. #History #Scotland

•July 25, 2021 • Leave a Comment

This letter is one of the most revealing James Renwick ever wrote to Robert Hamilton in Leeuwarden. It is also one of the shortest he ever wrote. It shows just how divisive the power struggle in the United Societies had become in early 1684. He rejoiced at the misfortune of others …

In January, 1684, Renwick was with Lady Earlstoun when she was sending away letters to the United Provinces. Presumably he was in Edinburgh. He took advantage of that to send a short note to Hamilton.

He says that when he goes through the countryside ‘at every time there come others aye out who did not come out before’. He also says that the Scottish regime was sending forces to the West. (Houston, Letters, 150-1.)

The brief update over, Renwick got to the meat. He had received word that Alexander Shields (formerly secretary to the leading militant ideologue, Robert MacWard), Andrew Cameron (the brother of the martyred Richard Cameron, d.1680) and John Flint (who had been talked out of seeking ordination by Hamilton) had met with disaster. All three were online to be ordained as ministers at Groningen and to return to preach to the United Societies.

You might imagine that would be good news for the Society people, as they would then have had four ministers to field preach to them.

But no, Renwick rejoiced in their misfortune:

‘Mr [Alexander] Shields is brought to Scotland. I know that he and Mr. Andrew Cameron and Mr. [John] Flint were joined together in seeking after ordination [presumably at Groningen], that they might come home to Scotland. But I when I heard it, I was not satisfied that you [Robert Hamilton] were not owned in it. However, this hath a strange language. The Lord hath crushed it; for their papers anent the same, and many books, were cast away at sea. O! The majesty of your God and my God, that shines in His management of affairs. Let you and me stand and admire this.’ (Houston, Letters, 151.)

This was political. For Renwick and Hamilton it mattered on which platform the field preachers of the United Societies stood on. They suspected that Shields, Cameron and Flint were ideologically suspect, i.e., not militant enough. In the long run, they would be proved correct, as all three rejoined the Church of Scotland after the Revolution. However, Renwick and Hamilton’s attempts to enforce a hardcore militant platform proved very divisive. Control of the Convention was vital. Over the next few years it would swing back and forth. Votes mattered.

This letter is also printed as Letter XXVIII in Carslaw, Life and Letters, p84-5.