Robert Miller’s Testimony at the Gallows in 1685: ‘Thou Shalt be Cut Off For Ever’
Robert Miller detested ‘all intelligencers’ or the ‘apprehenders of the Lord’s people’. In his martyrs’ testimony, he cited Obadiah 10 against them: ‘For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever’. Miller had probably been betrayed to the authorities by intelligencers and he would die for approving of the Society people’s declaration of November, 1684, which threatened intelligencers and apprehenders of God’s people with assassination…
Miller was a stonemason from Rutherglen parish in Lanarkshire. He was probably the son of Gavin Miller in Bank, a house which lay down by the River Clyde. In January, 1685, he was hanged near Edinburgh with Robert Pollock, a shoemaker from Glasgow and Kilbride parish.
From Miller’s testimony, it is clear that he was a member of the United Societies. It also provides evidence for his literacy, as he had clearly read Robert MacWard’s Joshua Redivivus, a collection of the letters of Samuel Rutherford first printed in 1664.
When Miller was captured is not clear. He was certainly captured after October, 1683, as he gave testimony to the field preaching of James Renwick and states that ‘I desire to bless the Lord that ever I heard them preach’. Renwick only began preaching in October, 1683. Miller’s testimony to Donald Cargill’s field preaching also indicates that he had probably heard him preach before mid 1681.
His probable appearance on the Fugitive Roll of May, 1684, under Rutherglen parish, indicates that he was captured after that date. That leaves a time frame for Miller’s capture of between June and December, 1684.
Miller’s testimony against the Privy Council for ‘not having any manner of fact against me, either worthy of death or of bonds, but only because I would not perjure myself, and state myself an open enemy to God, and His truth’ suggests that he was captured as a result of information about his convictions/evading oaths, rather than on the basis of a specific deed. His desire to ‘not perjure myself’ probably meant that he had refused either to take any oath issued by, or give a bond to, the Restoration regime. In practical terms, that probably meant that Miller had not taken the bond after Bothwell and failed to take the Test oath. Miller testified against the Test. He also clearly failed to the Abjuration oath before the council at the beginning of 1685. His claim that the council did not have ‘any manner of fact against me, either worthy of death or of bonds’ probably indicates that the council did not have any firm evidence for his participation in Bothwell or other treasonable actions which they could substantiate in court. What the council probably had was information or suspicions that he was one of the Society people and firm evidence that he had not taken oaths or given bond. From the evidence of his martyrs’ testimony, there is no doubt that Miller was one of the Society people and that the council’s suspicions were correct.
There is a strong hint in the available evidence that Robert Pollock, who was also from Lanarkshire, had been held in Glasgow before he was brought to Edinburgh, as Pollock ‘was taken a little before the court in October last [, which was held in Glasgow,] and sent into Edinburgh’. (Wodrow, History, IV, 226.)
Pollock was captured in early to mid October, but there is no indication as to exactly when Miller was taken. However, given that Miller was from Rutherglen parish near Glasgow, it is likely that he, too, was first held in Glasgow.
How long both men may have been held in Glasgow is not clear. Both of them may have been sent to Edinburgh by the circuit court held in Glasgow in October. However, they do not appear to have arrived in Edinburgh before December, 1684, as Miller and Pollock were not brought before the council with other suspected Society people held in Edinburgh in November or early December.
One way of interpreting their absence from the trials and executions of suspect Society people in November and early December, is that they were sent from Glasgow to Edinburgh after early December.
However, it is possible that the evidence for Pollock’s transfer to Edinburgh indicates that they were sent there as a result of the circuit court in October.
The trial of Miller and Pollock was the first to be held in Edinburgh after the Abjuration oath and courts were agreed. The oath had been formulated in the form in which it was widely pressed at the very end of 1684.
Miller and Pollock were tried before the Justiciary on 19 January, 1685. Miller faced trial over his earlier refusal to take the Abjuration oath before the council while he was a prisoner. Whether Miller was a rebel at Bothwell or not, or whether he refused the Test, or not, were secondary issues when it came to the reason for his execution. As is evident in many of the cases where execution was carried out prior to that of Millar and Pollock, the primary reason for those executions was the refusal by the defendants to acknowledge the King’s authority. Conviction would often follow in cases where royal authority was recognised when the defendants were guilty of rebellion, but the privy council would then issue a reprieve which prevented execution being carried out and a lesser punishment was settled on.
The Abjuration oath renounced the Societies; ‘war’ of assassinations. Both Miller and Pollock refused to take the Abjuration, were found guilty and condemned to be hanged. They were executed at the Gallowlee between Edinburgh and Leith on 23 January, 1685.
Extracts from Pollock’s martyrs’ testimony appeared the first edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1714. Miller’s testimony did not appear in it, but it was mentioned in relation to Pollock:
‘Together with him [i.e., Pollock] suffered Robert Miller, mason, in Rutherglen, sentenced for, and adhering to the same truths. In his testimony he blesses God for His providential care of him from his infancy, for His engaging his heart wonderfully to Himself, for His honouring him to tread the footsteps of his lovely Lord in suffering for His name. He declares his fears of the growth and prevalency of Popery, and of God’s approaching wrath against the land; exhorts to keep up Christian fellowships; forgives his enemies the injuries done to his person; encourages his suffering brethren to venture on the cross of Christ, enforcing it with his own experience of God’s love and supporting consolations sweetening the cross to him.’
Miller’s testimony was finally published in the fourth edition of Cloud of Witnesses in 1741. It is printed in Thomson (ed.), Cloud of Witnesses, 429-35.
It is as follows:
‘The Last Testimony of Robert Miller, mason, who lived in the parish of Rutherglen, and suffered for the truth at the Gallowlee of Edinburgh, upon the 23d of January, betwixt six and seven in the morning, 1685.
Loving And Dear Friends,—I being sentenced to die by men, have thought it fit to leave behind me this mite of a testimony, and to let you know upon what grounds I suffer; and it is only because I would not acknowledge the present authority, which is in a direct opposition to the Word of God; and also, because I would not take that oath against the Apologetical Declaration, and swear myself an enemy to the Covenants and work of Reformation, which I durst not do, no, not for my soul.
Now I confess, I have been a great sinner against God, but I never acted anything against man worthy of death, bonds, or imprisonment; now glory to Him, for He hath not been wanting to me. I have seen, in some measure, His hand of providence, aye, in less or more, from my very infancy, guiding me to this day. But now it is about fifteen years since [i.e., in c.1670] He engaged me wonderfully to Him, although I have many times turned my back on Him, and also thought I followed my duty, with many failings; yet He never suffered me to go, but still kept me with a loving respect to Him, and His persecuted truths, and aye when I was like to be snared with strong temptations from Satan, the world, and my own wicked heart, then He brake the snare, and I escaped as a bird out of the hand of the fowler. And, according to that word, He hath, in a wonderful measure, made all things to work together for my good.
Oh! how many times have I turned back, and provoked Him to hide His face, and to desert me, and to plague me with hardness of heart! but aye, when I was ready to sink, then He manifested His power, and brought me up out of the great depth, and also made out that word, ‘When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up’ (Ps. xxvii. 10). Now, I say, glory, glory to Him, who hath plucked me as a brand out of the burning, and hath made a prison and irons sweet and easy to me. Oh! what an honour is it, to tread the same steps that my loving Lord hath trod before me! Oh! now He is become altogether lovely, and the chief among ten thousand; I can now say from my experience, that my Beloved is mine, and I am His.
1. Now I heartily adhere, and leave my testimony to that covenant of free grace, agreed upon between the Father and the Son; that noble work of redemption; and desire to take Him in all His offices, as King, Priest, and Prophet.
2. I heartily adhere to the holy and sacred Word of God, with which my soul many a time hath been refreshed.
3. And also to the Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
4. And also to the National and Solemn League and Covenants [of 1638 and 1643].
5. And also to that glorious work of Reformation, as it was reformed from Popery and Prelacy, and all other errors.
6. And likewise I leave my testimony to all the fellowship meetings of the Lord’s people, for keeping up of the fallen down standard of our Lord [i.e., the United Societies].
7. And likewise I leave my testimony to these worthy men’s doctrine, viz., Mr Donald Cargill [executed in 1681] and the rest who jeoparded their lives upon the high places of the earth, for the bearing up of the fallen down standard of our Lord, when the rest most shamefully left it at the command of men.
8. And likewise I heartily adhere and leave my testimony to that worthy man’s doctrine, called Mr James Renwick, who is now carrying on that great work, when there are so few to own it. And I desire to bless the Lord that ever I heard them preach.
9. And likewise I leave my testimony to the Excommunication at the Torwood [of 1680], passed by Donald Cargill against these enemies of God.
10. And likewise I leave my testimony to all protestations and declarations given by the Lord’s people, against His enemies [including the Apologetical Declaration against Intelligencers of 1684].
11. And also, to the making use of defensive arms.
And likewise I desire to tell you what I disown, and leave my testimony against.
And in the first place, I leave my testimony against Popery and Prelacy, and Erastianism, and all other errors, not agreeable to the Word of God, and against all these that adhere to and own these abominable practices and principles.
2. I leave my testimony against that tyrant that is now upon the throne, viz., Charles Stuart, [i.e., Charles II.,] who hath not only broken the Covenant, but burned it, and overturned the whole work of Reformation, which he was sworn and engaged unto. and is yet going on with uplifted hands, in his perjury, and making to do the like, according to that of Jeroboam who made Israel to sin; and also for his Supremacy over the prerogatives of our Lord.
3. And also I leave my testimony against those called the Council of Scotland, who at this day sleep not, except they have done mischief, and they are now taking away my life, not having any manner of fact against me, either worthy of death or of bonds, but only because I would not perjure myself, and state myself an open enemy to God, and His truth, which I durst not do, no, not for my soul.
4. And likewise I leave my testimony against that wicked thing called the Test, invented by Satan.
5. And also against all Bonds and Declarations sent forth by these who are called the Council of Scotland.
6. And likewise, I leave my testimony against Cess and Locality paying, which is for no other use, but to bear down the Gospel of our Lord Jesus.
7. And also against militia money, which is for that same use.
8. And also against all intelligencers and apprehenders of the Lord’s people. Obadiah 10. [‘For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.’]
9. And likewise against all compearing at courts, or coming out of prison on bond or caution, or paying of jailor’s fees; for it says, that we have done them wrong, whereas we have done them none, and although they be forced to it, yet that will not excuse them, for there is not a liberty in all the Word of God, to say a confederacy with His open and avowed enemies.
10. And also I leave my testimony against the hearing of these tested curates, who are these that are mentioned in God’s Word, viz., wolves and bears, which would devour the Lord’s flock.
11. And against all the bloodshed, before and since Pentland [in 1666], in the fields, and on scaffolds, and also in the seas [i.e., the sinking of the Crown in 1679].
12. And against all the Indulgences, first and last; who lay down the service of the Lord at the command of men, and have engaged themselves in that woe that is pronounced against such as are at ease, when Zion is in trouble; for since I had any knowledge, I never had any clearness for ministers who acknowledged any to be the Head of the Church but Jesus Christ .
13. And against all sort of compliance, because I see there are few that ever comply with them, who ever get leave to look behind them, till they be the full length. And now, I must tell you, I have not been free of the thoughts of it this many a day, that the Church of Britain and Ireland shall be upon the borders of Babylon, before they get a delivery.
Now dear friends, study to be diligent in your duty, and also make good use of your Bibles, for I have not gotten the thoughts of it off my spirit this many a day, that ere long it shall come to that, that it shall be death to the person with whom a Bible is found; and also I must tell you, that there was nothing more confirming to me that they were enemies to truth, than to see their carriage when I was before them. Now I am not taking upon me to prophesy, but they are blind who see not there are sad days abiding these poor lands. Now, I say, oh! study holiness, and labour to follow your duty in sad earnest, for there is a black cloud of judgment ready to break upon these lands. And now I dare not doubt but Christ is upon His way to return again to these lands, and oh! be earnest with Him, that He would spare a remnant, and that He would not pass that sad sentence mentioned in Ezek. ix. 6, where he hath given a commission to ‘slay utterly old and young;’ and also, verse 10, where He hath said, ‘Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity.’ Now, I say likewise, be earnest with Him, that ye may be marked by the man with the writer’s inkhorn by his side, that ye may be kept in the hollow of His hand in the day of Scotland’s sad calamity.
Now, forsake not the assembling of yourselves together [in the United Societies], and employ your strength in the holding up of the fallen-down standard of our Lord, and if ye be found real in this duty, ye shall either be a member of the Church militant, and see that glory of the second temple, which shall be a glorious sight, or else ye shall be transported, and be a member of the Church triumphant; so ye shall be no loser, but a noble gainer either of the ways; for I dare not doubt, but that Christ is upon His way, and that He will keep a remnant even of holy seed, which shall yet be the substance of poor covenanted Scotland. Now, I desire to die a Presbyterian, although one of the meanest and poorest sinful things that ever followed Him and His way.
But, oh, praise! praise! and glory to Him, who hath taken this way of dealing with me, as to honour me with suffering for Him and His controverted truths, and royal prerogatives, kingdom, and sceptre. And now, in a word, I am fully persuaded that it is His truth I am suffering for, and in this case, have both His Word and Spirit on my side, and so I shall not be disappointed of my expectation.
Now, I desire heartily to forgive all men what they have done to me, as I am of myself; but what they have done against the image of God in me, that is not mine to forgive, but I must leave it before the Great Judge to be decided, in His own time, when He will arise and plead Zion’s quarrel. Although men have burned His work, and sworn it shall not rise again, yet the commission shall go forth, ‘Arise and sing, ye that dwell in the dust.’ [Isa. 26.19.]
But I must leave it, because my time is but short; but I have one word more to say to the poor remnant [of Society people]. Fear not to venture upon the cross of Christ, for although ye see but the black side of it at the beginning, yet when ye come to a trial upon His truth’s account, then He will appear, and be a present help in time of trouble, according to His Word; and the more sharp your trial be, the more He will be seen perfecting strength in your weakness, according to that in Isa. xl. 29, 31: ‘He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’
Now, I say, fear not to contend for the truth, but labour to be as free of self in it as ye can, for I can tell you, Christ and your idols will not lodge in one house together, but if ye can say upon good ground, that it is pure love and zeal to His glory upon which ye are suffering, then I say, come away, for ye shall not want expenses to the full. Many Scriptures I might instance for your encouragement in this, but I can say from experience, that He is a Prince of His word. Oh! they are not too mean who are in the furnace, if the Son of God be with them. For I may now say with godly Mr Rutherford, ‘He hath paid me many a hundredfold (it is well told me), and one to the hundred’ [Robert MacWard’s edited collection of the Letters of Samuel Rutherford, lxxiv., to the Lady Culross.] Oh! who would not praise Him, who hath carried through a poor dwarf mounted upon the wings of Omnipotency!
Now, my time is but short, but I give glory to the great name of my God, for my interest is now made sure, and I have had much of His sweet presence, since I was a prisoner for Him and His persecuted truths; and many times before. And now I bless His great name, He hath perfected His work in me, and I shall have the full enjoyment of Him through all eternity, for I have freely given away myself to be at His disposal, and have taken Him to be my King, Priest, and Prophet; and now I think I may say with Job, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another; though my reins be consumed with me’ (Job xix. 25-27).
Now, my dear friends, I must bid farewell to you, and leave you to Him who hath promised to be a little sanctuary to His own, to be kept by His mighty power unto salvation; and also I bid farewell to sun, moon, and stars And I must bid farewell to all the sweet Societies of the Lord’s people. Farewell reading, and singing, and praying. Farewell holy and sweet Scriptures, with which many a time my soul hath been refreshed. And to conclude, farewell all created comforts in time. And welcome the sweet fellowship of angels, and the spirits of just men now made perfect, and the sweet fellow ship of the first-born. Welcome Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, into whose hands I commit my spirit, for it is thine.
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