The Testimony of Thomas Stoddart Executed in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket on 12 August, 1685 #History #Scotland

Grassmarket Covenanters Monument

Thomas Stoddart was executed in the Grassmarket on 12 August, 1685. Matthew Bryce, David Law and Gavin Russell were hanged alongside him.

‘Men, Brethren, And Fathers, Hearken,—I being to take my farewell of the world, I leave this my dying testimony, according to the form of the Christians of old; I having like the same ground for it that he had who used that word; that was Stephen; who was condemned, because he spoke blasphemous words against the law and the temple. So, because I will not adhere to, nor approve of their laws, which now have power in their hands, they condemned me to die, though they could not witness so much against me for speaking against them, and they never essayed to prove the sentence upon me, which now I shall study in a word to give you an account of.

And first, I received my sentence of banishment, and then notwithstanding of that I was committed to the justices to abide the assize, and they passed upon me the sentence of death, for no other cause as I can give, but because I could not give such an answer to their questions about the government and the king’s authority (as they called it), as could satisfy their lusts, and that I durst not disown the Apologetic Declaration [Against Intelligencers of November, 1684]; and so I humbly conceive it will come to this as the ground of my suffering, that I could not own Christ’s enemies nor the power that they have taken to themselves against Him, nor disown Christ’s friends and their actings as they required; and therefore I am sentenced, albeit I owned as much of the authority as any Christian can be obliged to; that is to say, lawful authority according to the Word of God; but I desire to be submissive to His will who hath called me to this, and to have high thoughts of Him. I cannot get words to set Him out, but I find something to say to the commendation of Christ, as it is said in Cant. ii. 1: ‘He is the rose of Sharon and lily of the valley,’ the sweetest rose that ever I smelled, and never sweeter than when under the cross, and suffering upon His account.

Now I shall not be long. I have told you upon what account I suffer; it is out of love to Christ, and by faith in His mercy, that I venture upon it. I shall end it with a word. I thought it my duty to adhere to the Word of God, and to everything agreeable thereto; and I would suffer for everything as a ground which I think is right, and taken out of the Word of God, having encouragement from His blessed promises. ‘Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee’ [Isa. 43.1, 2].

And I have this to say also, that in all my imprisonments He was wonderfully seen in owning me, and carrying me through all the temptations that I was trysted with; if I would tell you them all they would take up much paper and time; and time being short I cannot get it done; but I think I must speak something to the commendation of free grace, that hath made me to suffer all cheerfully. I have read in the Apostle, ‘It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with Him’ [2 Tim. 2.11]. It is good at all times, but especially now. O but the people of this generation be greatly involved in sin; by reason they are so greatly and deeply involved in the breach of Covenant, which though it must not be owned by the law of the land, yet I dare not but own it. I would fain say, as it is said, ‘And Elijah said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself unto him to-day’ [1 Kings 18.15]. I own it before all, and I own myself to have joined, and do allow it heartily in joining with that poor persecuted party so much disowned. The thing that I did in that case I thought it my duty. I leave my testimony to my owning of it; and that I have joined myself to that which was most agreeable to the Word of God. I leave my testimony in behalf of these that I joined with, that little handful in their societies and fellowships, which have been very refreshful to my soul, and I have been much delighted in these; for I thought it was the Church of God.

And therefore I leave my testimony against all superstition and error, contrary to that way I received of the Lord there, and everything contrary to the Word of God,
I leave my testimony against all unlawful deeds, and all murdering acts and actings, whatsoever they be.
I leave my testimony against Popery and Prelacy, and whatsoever plant is not of my heavenly Father’s planting, and everything contrary to sound doctrine, and the power of godliness.
I leave my testimony also against these that hear the curates, and against all them that have said in effect, the Word is a lie; that is, because they will not take it to be their rule; for that is the only thing we should take to be our rule, in all steps of our sojourning here.

Now I think I must take my farewell of all created comforts, and all the things of the world, which have been so great a mean to make many of this generation scar [i.e., be frightened] at the cross of Christ, which is much mistaken by the world. He was so condescending, that He paved the way for poor sinners Himself, and made it straight and easy; and wonderful it is to think upon. The way that leads to heaven is very straight, and very easy. Also to these that believe He is that universal King, that lives and reigns forever, and all who subject themselves and obey Him, and consent to His terms, shall even know peace and shall enjoy His presence, which is the chief of all things. It is peace with God that is the matter of the believer’s rejoicing, and makes them all to flighter [i.e., flutter or throb] with joy in following Him, who is the way, the truth, and the life; and whom to know is life everlasting; that doth and may give great courage to these who love this way of His, that is so greatly reproached by the people of this generation. I think ye may conceive what I mean by the saying of this. And now, my dear friends and fellow-sufferers, and brethren in the Lord, O but the counsel of the Lord be wise, in bringing me hitherto!

And I shall say no more, but touch at one thing, and that is, that here I join my hearty testimony with all that ever the people of God did in His way, and for His cause in His Gospel terms; to all the blood that has been shed for the Gospel, in all fields and scaffolds whatsoever.

So I take my farewell of all things under heaven. Farewell to the world, the flesh and sin, and also to all friends and relations, and kinsmen, and brethren; and also I take my farewell of mother and brethren, and sisters. And also I bid farewell to all my wonted privileges and enjoyments. As also, I take my farewell of all the sweet Societies that have been so refreshful to my soul several times. Farewell friends in Christ. Farewell sun, moon, and stars. Welcome heaven. Welcome my God and angels, and glorified spirits. And so come, Lord Jesus.

Thomas Stodart.’

His testimony is printed in Thomson (ed.), Cloud of Witnesses, 443-6.

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~ by drmarkjardine on August 12, 2018.

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