Testimony of John Potter Executed at Edinburgh’s Mercat Cross 1 December, 1680 #History #Scotland

The Testimony of John Potter, a farmer who lived in the parish of Uphall in Linlithgowshire, and suffered at the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh, December 1, 1680.

‘All you spectators and auditors, I desire your attention to a few words, and I shall be brief. And before I begin, I must tell you, you must not expect such a testimony from me as ye have had from some of them that went before me, I not being a learned man, as some of them have been. However, I desire to look to God; who not only can give me what to speak, but can also bless what I speak, so as it may be for His glory, and the good of them that love Him, and wait for His coming; which is the desire of my soul. Now, I being to step out of time into eternity, I hope you will not think that I shall say anything now but what my conscience binds me to say.

In the first place, I must tell you for what I am come here this day, to lay down my life; it is for owning and adhering to my sworn principles. I am a Presbyterian, and herein I do rejoice that I am to suffer for His cause only; for adhering to the Word of God; our Confession of Faith; Larger and Shorter Catechisms; our Covenants, National and Solemn League, together with our solemn Acknowledgment of Sins and Engagement to Duties; wherein all Scotland were once engaged, and thought it their duty and honour to be so. And this is the reason for which I am sentenced to death by men; but God, to whom vengeance doth belong, will avenge Himself for all the wrongs done to His glory, cause, interest, and people. I was born under the pure light of the Gospel, and was taught to own Christ as king in Zion only, and head of His own Church; and this I own to be my duty.

But I am here charged with rebellion; which I deny, because I was never of that opinion, that it was rebellion to hear the Gospel; for the word of God binds us to it as our duty; otherwise, why should God have told us, ‘That we should go from sea to sea to seek the word of the Lord, and should not find it?’ And the practice of our Lord and His apostles, in preaching of the Gospel to the people that heard them, is a sufficient ground to prove it to be duty to hear the Gospel, whether in fields or houses, when it cannot be had elsewhere; and if it be duty to hear the Gospel as it is, then certainly it is duty to defend the Gospel when preached in purity; according to the word of God, and according to the sixth article of the Solemn League and Covenant, wherein we are bound to assist and defend all that enter into covenant with us, and to the utmost of our power, with our lives in our hands; much more to defend the Gospel, which teaches us the fundamental principles of our holy Religion.

And to take away that vile and malicious aspersion, which they cast upon us; charging us with an intention to have murdered the Duke of York and others with him; I declare I had never such a principle as to murder any man, neither did I ever hear of it till the Council told me ; which I knew to be a vile and hell-hatched aspersion cast upon the way and people of God; but they judge others by themselves, for that is their principle—to murder the people of God, as they also do.

Next I was charged, whether or not I adhered to Sanquhar Declaration? I answered, I not only adhered to it, but also will lay down my life cheerfully and willingly, as I do this day, for adhering thereto; yea, if every hair of my head were a life, and every drop of my blood were a man, I would willingly lay them all down for Him and His cause.

I come here to tell you—
1. That I adhere to all the written will and word of God; and I adhere to the Confession of Faith, and our Catechisms, Larger and Shorter, and to our Covenants, National and Solemn League, and to the solemn Acknowledgment of Sins and Engagement to Duties, and to all the Covenants made betwixt God and us, wherein I stand engaged.

2. I adhere to all the testimonies that have gone before me.

3. I adhere to all that has been done for maintaining and defending the Gospel against a tyrannising and bloody enemy, when the actors thereof had the glory of God before their eyes as the chief motive that drove them thereto; whether at Pentland, Drumclog, Glasgow, Bothwell, Airsmoss, or any other place in Scotland, where there has been any rencounter of that kind.

4. I adhere to that action of Excommunication at the Torwood; it being according to the word of God, and done by a faithful minister of the Gospel, and in as legal a way as the present dispensation and circumstance of time could permit; and also, the persons excommunicate being guilty of such crimes as justly do deserve that act to be passed against them.

5. I adhere to the testimonies of all that have borne testimony against silent and unfaithful ministers; by their withdrawing from them, which is a declaring that they do not own them as faithful ambassadors of Jesus Christ, because of their unfaithfulness; and I hope none will condemn me for saying, that I have not had clearness to join with them, while they remain so unconcerned with the cause of Christ and the oppression of His people.

6. I adhere to the way of salvation agreed upon betwixt the Father and the Son before the creation of the world, that through the Son we should be made perfect ; which I hope to obtain before this body of mine be cold, and in His perfection I shall be made perfect, and through His suffering I shall be conformed to Him who suffered without the gate, bearing His reproach. And I am well pleased with my lot this day. Oh! my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name, for all that He hath done for my soul, and for His way of bringing me here this day, to lay down my life for Him. I am not afraid of grim death; I know that God has taken away the sting of death through the sufferings of His Son.

In the next place, being here as a dying witness for Christ and His cause, I do therefore leave my testimony against all abominations done in the land against a holy God, and in contempt of His image; particularly:
1. I testify against all that woeful and hell-hatched Act of Supremacy, wherein they acknowledge the king to be head of the Church, and thereby have invested a mortal creature with Christ’s crown, sword, and sceptre.

2. I bear witness and testify against the breaking of the National and Solemn League and Covenant, and making them to be burnt by the hand of the hangman at the Market Cross of Edinburgh, and elsewhere through Scotland, so contrary to their solemn engagement .

3. I witness and bear my testimony against the reception of Prelacy, so contrary to the word of God, and our Covenants; for . then it was that the Covenanters in Scotland should have withstood both king and Council, and all that joined with them in that head, and should have testified against them with their swords in their hands until they had resisted unto blood, according to the sixth article of the Solemn League and Covenant. Oh! that all that are alive this day that were men when the Covenant was burnt, were taking with [i.e., confessing] their sin, and were lying in the dust; every one for his share in that sin, and every one for the land’s guiltiness.

4. I leave my testimony against all the horrid bloodshed that has been in this land, whether of noblemen, gentlemen, ministers, or any others, that have suffered in Edinburgh, or any other place, whether on scaffolds, on gibbets, in open fields, or on the sea; particularly that horrid act of murdering so many men [at Pentland in 1666] after they had taken them prisoners and promised them their lives; which was done by Thomas Dalziel, called General; who took them prisoners, and after promising to set them at liberty, delivered them to the bloody Council, who most cruelly murdered them against and without all law and reason, never speaking of conscience; for they had lost all of that they ever had, when they burned the Covenant and murdered the Marquis of Argyle, and my Lord Warriston, and that eminent minister Mr James Guthrie; who were murdered against the very acts of their own laws.

5. I bear witness, and testify against the cutting off heads and hands, and setting them up upon the ports of Edinburgh, and elsewhere through the kingdom of Scotland, as if they had been thieves or malefactors.

6. I testify and bear witness against all the imprisonments, finings, and confinings, of the people of God, for adhering to His word and our Covenants.

7. I testify and bear witness against the pressing of the Declaration against our Covenants upon the consciences of the Lord’s people.

8. I testify and bear witness against the imposing and paying of cess and militia money, both for oppressing the consciences, and grinding the faces of the poor.

9. I testify and bear witness against that cruel and hell-hatched act of sending the Highland host, and the rest of that cabal, to oppress and plunder the people of God.

And lastly, I bear witness against all the oppression, spoiling, robbing, and hunting of the people of God, and that against all manner of law or reason. I shall be a standing witness against them, ay, and while [i.e., until] they repent. Oh! that the Lord would pour out of His spirit upon all that have so grievously turned aside, and make them to lie in the dust, and to take with [i.e., confess] their sins; but I fear, a holy God has given them up to themselves, and sealed their hearts with obduration, and so they are become proof against all dispensations; but sure, such as will not bow to God, shall be broken by the mighty rod of iron, that is in His hand to bruise the nations.

I have here left my testimony against the perjury, bloodshed, and oppression of the people of God, which has been done by him who is called the King of Britain and Ireland ; and the perjury and bloodshed acted by noblemen and gentlemen, who have been assisting and strengthening his hand in bloody and cruel courses; and therefore I leave my testimony against them, and my blood tupon their heads, and especially against such as were present in the Council, when I was examined, and these perjured lords of the criminal court, where I was sentenced to die here in this place of execution; and also I leave my blood upon the head of the assizers and all others, who said amen to my sentence, whatever they have been, and yet are; except they repent, my blood shall be charged upon them. Likewise I leave my testimony against all who carried arms to guard me to this scaffold; they shall be found guilty of my blood, if mercy and grace prevent it not .

Likewise I bear witness, and leave my testimony against the reception [October 1679, or October 1680] of the Duke of York, first and last; that professed papist, who has been laying out himself to carry us back to Rome, and that not only by the bloody Council and other perjured noblemen and gentlemen, but also by the city of Edinburgh, who went out of the port to receive him, as though he had been a king, with shooting of guns, sounding of trumpets, beating of drums, and kindling of bonfires, which is contrary to the Word of God and our Covenant, after he had been cast off justly by the other kingdom of England. [The Exclusion Bill of October 1680 was rejected by the Lords.] I shall be a witness against that action in the great day; and, particularly, I leave my blood upon that wretch and bloody tyrant the Duke of York; for it is to satisfy him and to quench his implacable thirst after blood that I am brought hither this day. The last time he came to Scotland, he got a sacrifice of the blood of these five that suffered at Magus Moor [i.e., Thomas Brown, John Clyde, Andrew Sword, John Waddell and James Wood], who were indeed highly honoured, and nothing short of these that went before them. And now, he must have this, our blood, to quench his thirst upon ; but that heart of his that is so rejoicing at the hearing and seeing of our death ; erelong my heart shall sing Hallelujah to the Lamb of God, and join in my note, and pass my sentence with the Great Judge against him, and all the enemies of God, if great repentance and free grace prevent it not.

And, with respect to that for which I am sentenced to death, because of many mistakes, even among the godly, through wrong information; I here, as a dying man, declare I had before me no design but only the glory of God, and the coming of Christ’s kingdom, and His reigning as King in Zion. And for this I am sentenced, and for this I lay down my life this day, and I do it willingly and cheerfully, and not by constraint; for if I had been left of a holy God so far as to quit one hoof of His truth, I might have redeemed my life; as some have done, that were as deeply engaged to stand by the truth, even to the resisting unto blood, as I was, and seemed to be as deeply concerned as I was. How they have come out of prison I know not; but God knows, and to Him they will and must give account thereof, and to Him I leave it; but I think there are few that came out of prison that now can say, they have neither touched, tasted, nor handled the abominations of these times wherein they live. Therefore, I leave my testimony and witness against all that have come out of prison, by taking of the Bond, if it were but to compear before these bloody enemies of God, in as far as they were convinced that it was sin; as some of them were, otherwise their tongue and pen have lied; which I leave to God and their own consciences to determine. whether or not they sinned in so doing.

Next, I here as a dying man do declare, that if the blotting of paper to them would save my life, I would not do it at that rate; for I see they are setting themselves to ensnare poor things, and I see neither ministers nor professors to give their advice in this matter, if it be not to make them take the Bond, as they did to these poor things in the churchyard [of Greyfriars, to the prisoners taken at Bothwell Bridge.]

Also, I leave my testimony and bear witness against all the unfaithfulness of ministers and professors.
1. I bear witness against the unfaithfulness of these ministers that were with the Public Resolutions, to bring in, or keep in, any of these men that were open and avowed malignants and enemies to God, so contrary to our Covenants.

2. I bear testimony against that act at Glasgow [October 1, 1662] wherein six hundred ministers and upwards did quit their charge, and turn their back upon their flock; and since, many of them are turned ravening wolves and greedy dogs that cannot bark, according to that word, Ezekiel xiii. 4, 5, ‘O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the Lord.’ Had it not been their duty to have stood by their charge until they had been driven out of their pulpits?

3. I leave my testimony against both Indulgences, first and last, and against all that comply and go on with them in that sinful course; ay, and while [i.e., until] they repent, I shall be a standing witness against them. Surely, if they be found with clean fingers when God comes to inquire after blood, I am mistaken. But, oh! what will they answer when Christ shall say, ‘Come here, sir, give me an account of your talent. What did ye with your ministry? Laid ye it aside at the command of Charles Stuart and the bloody Council? And had ye more delight to be a doctor or chamberlain than ye had to be minister?’ Oh! let the unfaithful minister remember that word in the xxxiii. of Ezekiel, verse 6, ‘But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand.’ I fear that the blood of many souls will be required at the hands of the most part of the ministers of Scotland.

4. I bear witness and leave my testimony against the unfaithfulness of many ministers, who have left their wonted love and burning zeal which they had when they ventured upon the high places of the earth in preaching the Gospel.

And now, in the last place, I bear testimony against all that have preached, written against, or reproached that poor party, that were occasionally met at Airsmoss, only for the hearing of the Gospel; and now, when I am stepping out of time into eternity, I declare that I adhere to all the doctrines that ever I heard Mr Richard Cameron or Mr Donald Cargill preach; and my soul blesseth God that ever I heard either of them; for my soul has been refreshed to hear the voice and shouting of a king among these field-meetings, wherein the fountain of living waters has been made to run down among the people of God, in such a manner that armies could not have terrified us. Oh! I am sure the blood that has been shed in the fields, and on scaffolds, in Scotland, for the cause and interest of Jesus Christ, will have a glorious crop, in spite of devils and men; and I am sure the seed sown at Airsmoss will have as glorious a vintage as ever any seed in Scotland had.

And now, oh! ye that are the poor remnant that are to stay behind, who are the butt of the fury, not only of the open and bloody enemies, but also of many ministers and professors, who have gone out of the way themselves, and will not suffer others to walk in it; I have this to say to you; be earnest and constant in kything [i.e., showing] of love to Christ; walk with more fear, lest ye offend a holy and jealous God. Oh ! beware that ye quit not your integrity; there are many waiting for your halting, yea, and longing for it. Cast not off the way of Christ because of suffering. If ye knew what of His love and comforting presence I had, since I was called to witness for Him against these bloody traitors that are thirsting after the blood of the Lord’s people, ye would long for such proofs of His love; seek Him early and ye shall find Him. Be not troubled because of our death; it is not a death unto the soul, but an inlet of life to it; for to be dead to the world, is to be alive to Christ. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.

And rejoice, oh! ye poor of the flock, that wait with fear and trembling, and with faith and love in exercise; it is to you that He will come. He meeteth him that rejoiceth in and worketh righteousness. Blessed are ye that weep now; for ye shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek; for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled. Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they that are reproached for righteousness sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you for My sake. Oh friends! it is only you that have ground to rejoice; if ye by Him be helped to keep the word of His patience, He will keep you in the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the face of the earth.

Oh! dear friends and followers of Christ, hold on your way, weary not, faint not, and ye shall receive the crown of life. It is those that overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, that shall stand, being clothed in white robes, before the throne, for these are they that came out of great tribulation. Remember that there is a book of remembrance written, and the names of these are written in it, that speak often one to another. Oh! my friends, let it be your study to keep up private fellowship meetings, wherein so much of the power and life of religion is to be found. Remember that here I, as a dying sufferer for Christ, leave this charge to every one of you that have any love to Christ; set about this and other duties with more fervent love and zeal than heretofore hath been done; and be much in private prayer; wrestle with God upon the account of Jacob’s trouble. I will say this, that the more ye seek for Zion, the more ye will get for yourselves. Let not the reproaches cast upon the way of God, stumble you. And see that when ye are reviled, ye revile not again; but rather with meekness and love, in the fear of the Lord, study ye to gain others; but if they will not hearken, when this is done, then be free and faithful in testifying against them for so doing; but especially let your conversation testify your dislike of these sinful courses. And now, my dear friends in Christ, I leave you to Him, who has promised to be with you in the fire and water, and bear the weight of all your reproaches, and is afflicted in all your afflictions.

As for you that are lying in black nature, I exhort you to repent of your sins, and come out of that woful estate wherein ye are now lying, and close with a slain Mediator upon His own terms. Oh! fall in love with the way of salvation. Oh! can ye think of the way of redemption, and not stand and wonder at the condescendency of free grace? I tell you, except ye repent, ye shall all perish.

I have a word to speak to you that are cruel and open enemies to Christ and His cause. Remember, the saints shall judge the world; and then we shall not get leave to stand on equal terms with you; but we shall be set on thrones, with crowns on our heads, and harps in our hands, to sing praise to the Lamb. And then we shall pass our sentence, with the great Judge, upon all the enemies of God; and ye shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God, if ye repent not . I pray that the Lord would open your eyes, that ye may see your sins, and turn from them and live.

I forgive all men the wrongs they have done, or can do to me. But for the wrongs done to Christ, in robbing Him of His right over His church and people, I know vengeance belongs to God, and He will repay them. Therefore I leave them under process, ay, and while [i.e., until] they repent.

And now I begin to enjoy Him who is invisible; for it is but little we can see of Him now; but this I am sure of, that I shall be made conform to Him through His sufferings. Therefore I take my leave of all the world, and the enjoyments thereof. I leave my wife and child to my covenanted God, who gave them to me, and willingly quit and give them up to Him, hoping that He will be a husband to the widow, and a father to the fatherless, according to His promise. I hope that the friends of the Lord will remember the living for the dead’s sake.

Farewell wife and child, parents and relations, and all friends and acquaintances. Welcome heaven, angels, and saints! Welcome God and Father! Welcome lovely Jesus Christ! Welcome Holy Spirit of Grace; into Thy hands I commend my soul and spirit.

Sic subscribitur,
Jo[hn]. Potter.’

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~ by drmarkjardine on December 1, 2017.

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