Testimony of James Stewart, A Wishaw Covenanter Hanged in 1681 #History #Scotland

Cloud of Witnesses 1714 Wigtown Martyrs


The Testimony of James Stewart, domestic servant to Thomas Steuart in Coltness in the parish of Cambusnethan, who was hanged at the Gallowlee, betwixt Edinburgh and Leith, on 10 October, 1681.

‘Dear Friends—I being in prison for Christ, and his persecuted cause, though some may say otherwise, and that upon the account of my taking; but I do not care what they say—for I have had, and yet have great peace in my sufferings—but some will be ready to say, That it was an—imprudent and an unsure action, and so might have been forborne—and suppose it be so, it is not the head of my suffering, for it was not that upon which I was staged,—for I was presently staged for the truth, the next day after I was taken, being brought before a committee;—though indeed I was not so free as I should have been.

There is a passage, Acts xxi. of Paul’s going up to Jerusalem, which, some say, he might have forborne, but more especially his going up to the temple, and doing these things which are according to the law; he might, I say, have forborne this, and walked consonant to his former practice, doctrine and writings: but though his going to the temple was the occasion of his taking, yet not the head of his suffering; so, I say, though that which I did in relieving my brother, was the occasion, yet my suffering was stated on another head. But I cannot see, how it is as ye say; for I seeing it my duty, and finding opportunity, had a clear call for all that I did. And besides all that, we being bound in covenant to defend and maintain one another, we are bound as well to relieve one another out of prison, when there is a probability seen.

But I need not stand much in making this out, it being the way that the Lord took to bring me to my suffering; and I am heartily content with my lot, and desire with my soul to bless him for it. Though I was dreadfully aspersed when that bond of liberation was offered to us, (for though some had clearness to take it, yet I could never have thoughts of taking it in peace; and I bless the Lord who kept my hand from it), it was neither strength nor sharp-sightedness in me that withheld me from yielding to the temptation; but the Lord hath shewed himself graciously favourable and kind onto me, now when I am set up like a beacon upon the top of an hill, and the eyes of many being upon me, and all are wondering at me, and calling me distracted, and saying, I am a fool, but (the Lord be thanked) I have all the senses that ever I had, though distressed, yet I despair not. Neither am I suffering as a fool; for I know assuredly, this is the way to obtain the promise.

There is nothing in it meritorious, I confess; for all my suffering, he may put me into hell; but I say, the suffering of reproaches and the scourge of tongues, is a symptom or mark of his way, when it is for his sake, Matth. v. 11. ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and speak all manner of evil against you, and persecute you for my name’s sake.’ It is for his name’s sake that I am suffering, and this confirms me of it, Matth. x. 22. ‘Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake; but he that endureth unto the end, shall be saved.’

Now, it is for Christ’s kingly office that I am suffering; and this being the main head on which my suffering is stated, even that great truth, viz. Jesus Christ is king and head of Zion, I desire and charge you to beware of misconstructing my sufferings, and saying, that I was suffering for disowning of authority, and declining of judges; for it is not so;—I being a presbyterian in my judgment, and owning both magistracy and ministry, according to the word of God, and as he hath ordained them: but if Charles Stuart’s authority be according to the word of God, I am mistaken. If he be exercising his power, to the terrifying of evil-doers, and the encouraging them that do well, I die in an error. I say, beware of your judging, for I am a presbyterian in my judgment, and a member of the church of Scotland, and am to seal it with my blood.

I adhere to that blessed transaction between the Father and the Son,—that holy device devised from all eternity,—the Father to send his Son, and the Son to come and satisfy divine justice, and so redeem lost man.

I adhere to all the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, which are all standing in force until this day, and obligatory upon us, except the ceremonial law, with a part of the judicial, which is now abrogated and abolished by our Lord’s coming,—he being the end of the law.

I adhere to our glorious work of reformation, Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Acknowledgment of Sins, and Engagement to Duties, though they be abused and misconstructed by many.

And I adhere to the Sum of Saving Knowledge, wherein is held forth the life and marrow of religion.

I adhere to all the testimonies that have been given. Mr. Guthrie, Argyle, and Warriston,— they gave in their testimony according to the light that the Lord gave them; and I do not condemn their testimony, as some say, for at some times the Lord gives more light than at other times; so it cannot be said, that we contradict or disown their testimony, though it hath pleased the Lord, through continuance of time, to give more light of the abounding abominations that are still growing and abounding in this generation; and so whatever they omitted through want of that light, which it hath pleased the Lord to let its see, makes no contradiction.

I adhere to the Rutherglen and Sanquhar Declarations.

I adhere to the Paper found upon Mr Richard Cameron at Air-moss July 22, 1680 [, i.e., the Bond Before Sanquhar].

I adhere to the Papers that were found at the Queensferry upon Henry Hall.

I adhere to any writings that are according to the word of God, for truth is truth, come by whom it will. Now, as a dying man, I adhere to all these things. I have received an unjust sentence from men, for owning and adhering to the same, and for protesting against the inbringing of Popery, to defile the land.

And likewise, upon these accounts, I disown Charles Stuart to be my king and sovereign: First, because of that hellish Act of Supremacy, and that Act Rescissory, whereby they have overturned and wrested all the laws, acts, and constitutions of the land: for in the foresaid act, he assumeth that unto himself which belongs properly to our Lord and Master, and says, That he rules over all things both spiritual and temporal; and then, when he hath made himself supreme over all things, he rescinds the laws that are of God, and sets up other laws to satisfy his own lusts, in murdering, killing and destroying the Lord’s people; and this is the reason why I disown him: and likewise his dreadful perjury and blasphemy in his covenant-breaking.

I decline them as judges, for the opening a door there to Popery, which they have done, by receiving that popish duke [of York] in among them, which I protest and leave my testimony against;—it being contrary to our engagements to suffer papists to dwell amongst us, and to have a professed papist to usurp over us,—it being repugnant to our principles.

I leave my testimony against Prelacy,—it being a limb of that anti-christian whore of Rome.

I leave my testimony against all the abominations of this generation, as blaspheming of the holy name of the Lord, drunkenness, stealing, whoring, sodomy, and all manner of uncleanness.

I leave my testimony against all indifferency and lukewarm neutrality in our Lord’s matters.

I leave my testimony against the indulgencies first and last, as having a greater hand in breaking of the church of Scotland, than all the enemies living in it could have done; for they sold their Master’s truths, and gave away their pleasant things with their own hands, and so came in under Charles Stuart, and took him for their head, and have cast off their rightful head Jesus Christ; Eph. i. 22. ‘And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church.’ Wo will be unto them, for what they have done to the poor kirk of Scotland.

I leave my testimony against silent and unwatchful ministers. Remember, there are many taken away, and it is to be feared, in their iniquity; and do ye think that ye are free of their blood? Ye may look what warning ye have given, and if it be faithful; then ye may say, that ye are not guilty. But there is not a minister this day, who dares say, he is at his duty. They refuse to give counsel when asked at, as I myself can witness; for when that liberation was granted, I sent to one of them, and charged him, as I judged him faithful, to tell me his mind, which he refused; and said, silence might serve for an answer, I was not suffering for truth. But I heartily forgive him, and all men, what they have done to me, as for my own particular; but how they have reproached Christ and his way, it is not mine to forgive them.

O the ministers of Scotland are become light and treacherous persons, as well as revellers; they are become ravening wolves; so I cannot see, how they have not unministered themselves. If Ahiathar was turned out of the priest’s office for leaving David, and following Adonijah; how much more ought the ministers of Scotland, for leaving of him, who is the true head of the church, and choosing Charles Stuart for their head? It is not long since they were preaching that to be sin, which they are now practising. I have no doubt, but ere long there shall come out fire from Ahimelech, and destroy the men of Shechem, and fire from them, and devour him. And ere long, Mr. Donald Cargill, and Mr. Richard Cameron, their names that now stink, among ministers and professors, shall have a sweet smell; and those that calumniate and asperse them, their names shall go away with a stink, and fly away with a smoke; but I am sure, that that now glorified martyr Mr. Donald Cargill’s name shall last from generation to generation; and he shall have cause to rejoice in his king, head, and Master, who is Jesus Christ,—when those who condemned him, shall not know where to flee for shelter, and shall be weary of their head, king, and master,—who is Charles Stuart; and what, brethren (disaffected as they were) did cast upon him as a shame, was his glory and decorement. He was of a high heroic spirit, and was free of a base and Simonian carriage. He was a man hated of his brethren; but the great Elijah in his time was so. Time and tongue would fail me to speak his commendation. He was the man who carried the standard, without the help of any visible: but he had the help and assistance of his Master, at whose command he was aye wandering here without residence, yet knew of one above, and had full assurance of his dwelling-place.

I leave my testimony against uplifting, or causing uplift, cess or excise, or any thing, for the maintaining that tyrant, or any of his emissaries;—it being for nothing, but maintaining these ruffian troopers and soldiers, who are kept for nothing, but to suppress and bear down the gospel, and banish it out of the land.

I leave my testimony against all declaration-takers and bonders, especially the taking that bond of liberation as they call it, of the date of August 5,1680, as far as they were convinced it was sin,—as some of themselves said it was.

I leave my testimony against that test, and all the rest of their proceedings, and acts of parliament [in 1681].

I leave my testimony against jailor-fee paying; it being an acknowledgment of their tyranny to be lawful, which how unjust it is, I have a proof among others; for that night I was before York, and the rest, being October 1, 1681,—I being examined by Sir George M’Kenzie,—York and Mr. William Paterson coming unto me, when I was silent, and would not answer to some things they asked at me,—he threatened to take out my tongue with a pair of pincers, if I would not: and he held him as a witness against me. And though I told him, that he was a judge the other night, and —“would ye hold him as a witness against us before your justiciary!” yet they did it; which was neither according to law nor reason.— If there were no more but that passage, it proves them to be unjust judges, as there are many worse than that is.

I leave my testimony against the mounting of militia, and uplifting of money for his service.

I leave my testimony against every thing that may strengthen his hands, or weaken the hands of the people of the Lord.

Now I desire you, (as a dying man, who am within forty-eight hours, or little more, of eternity), to disown Charles Stuart to be your king and sovereign. I charge you so to do, as you would have peace with God; for I never knew what true peace was till I did it, and took Jesus Christ for my king and lawgiver. This is not—that I disown kings or kingly government,—for I own both; but when their actions are such as his are, and a covenanted king as he was, we cannot in conscience yield to him; for he hath murdered the Lord’s people our brethren: and when we acknowledge even his civil authority, I cannot see what way we are clean of their blood, it being by a shadow of law and authority that he takes away their lives, and so we cannot own him in that; and to own him in ecclesiastic matters, I think there will be none so absurd, as to say, we should do that, he having nothing to do in church matters: he only received the sceptre in his hand, to be a hedge about, and to defend her against all opposition; and now ye may see how he hath destroyed her, instead of defending her.

I give you it in short, and desire you to ponder and consider it, and ye will not find me so mad, as many of you say I am; for I am not prodigal of my life, neither have I a hand in my own death; for I love my life as well as my neighbours, and it is as dear to me as any of yours is to you; but, when it comes in competition with my Lord’s truths, I dare not seek to save my life with prejudice thereunto. Neither am I wearied of my life, though it is true indeed, there is nothing here to be coveted, that is not enough to weary one, neither am I wearied of it; therefore I charge you, that ye do not brand me with aspersions when I am gone.

I leave my blood on all the assizers, who after we had given in our protestation against all their proceedings, both in their council and justiciary, and told them, That it was for no action that we were suffering, but only on the matters of conscience and judgment that we were pannelled; yet notwithstanding our charging them with our blood, they most unjustly took away our lives. Do not think this flows from a spirit of malice, spite, bitterness, or revenge; for I desire to bless the Lord, I am free from the spirit of bitterness or revenge: but they take away my life without and against any just law; I cannot get it passed.

Do not think that I am an enthusiast, and take on me a bare impulse of the spirit for a call to suffer on,—or the word as it lies literally, for a call,—for it is not so;—I having desired and used some endeavours, (though it has been in great weakness I confess, yet I dare say, in some respect, my desire to the Lord about it hath been sincere,) that he would help me to get his word and my own conscience consulted, and try the word by the spirit, and the spirit by the word;—for it is but a dead letter without the spirit.

And likewise my blood is lying, and will be heavy on that popish Duke [of York]. And I will not say but the Lord will permit him to usurp the crown of Scotland, but the blood that he hath got to welcome him home to it, and to satisfy his own lust,—will weigh him downfrom the throne; but indeed, I fear, that he get his design drawn to a great length, and get the ark carried away, even to your apprehension, out of Scotland; but remember the Philistines carrying away the ark, and the men of Bethshemesh looking into it, how the Lord smote them: and so I think, when they have got the kirk banished and destroyed, and the witnesses all killed, when they will look on the church as carried clean away, and thereupon shall turn secure,—will not the Lord be avenged on them, and charge them with all the blood they have so heinously shed? But indeed we have deserved no less than the Lord’s leaving of this land, and to give them into the hands of our enemies: but as long as there is no appearance of a better church in the whole world, ye need not fear that the Lord will enhance Scotland’s right of a church to any other. He suffered the children of Israel many a time to fall into, and lie under the hands of their enemies; but he never forsook them altogether, until there came a better in their place.

Likewise, my blood is on all these parliamenters and counsellors, these of the justiciary, as they call it.

Now, dear friends, I am going to eternity, ere it be long, from whence I cannot return; and as a dying man, I give you warning, and bid you take heed what you are doing. Be tender of the glory of God, and take no unlawful gate to shun suffering, nor sinful shifts to come by the cross. But when there is a cross lying in the way, see that ye seek not to go about it; and venture upon suffering before sinning: for he never sent any a warfare upon their own charges. If any knew the sweetness of a prison, they would not be so afraid to enter upon suffering; ye would not join with the Lord’s enemies as ye are doing. O dear friends, take warning now, for it is a question if ever ye get any more warnings of this kind: for it is a sad juncture that your lot and mine is fallen into; but now I am going away home. O! the Lord is kind to me, who hath honoured me so highly, and is also taking me away from the evil that is to come: for, indeed I think, there are sad days abiding poor Scotland. O sirs! be busy, and venture all upon him, and put all in his hand; and whatever you have been, let not that scare you; if you have been a great sinner, I say, let not that hinder you from coming to him, and closing with him; for the greater sinner you be, the more free grace is magnified in reclaiming you. I may speak this from my own experience; for I was as a brand plucked out of the fire: and he hath brought me through many difficulties, temptations, and snares, and made my soul escape as a bird out of the cunning fowler’s net, and brought me to a prison at length, to suffer bonds for him. He made all things sweet to me, the company sweet to me, even bad company; he made reproaches sweet. I have been made to wonder at his kindness and love to me-ward; and now he hath brought me this length, without being afraid what enemies can do to me, and that is a great confirmation to me of true love, that—perfect love casts out fear. Now, He is faithful, into whose hands I commit my spirit and soul, and he will keep it against that day.

Now when I am going,—farewell all friends and Christian acquaintances; farewell sweet and holy Scriptures, wherewith my soul hath been refreshed; farewell reading, singing, and praying; farewell sweet meditation; farewell sun, moon, and stars; farewell all created comforts. Welcome death; welcome sweet gallows, for my sweet and lovely Lord; welcome angels; welcome spirits of just men made perfect; welcome eternity; welcome praises; welcome immediate vision of the Sun of righteousness.

Sicsub.—James Stewart.’

For more on the death of James Stewart, see here.

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~ by drmarkjardine on December 8, 2017.

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