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KNOW it is objected by some, that they much wanted that virtue which is the greatest ornament of Christians, and truest character of martyrs, namely, a forgiving disposition; because they lay their blood at the door of the principal contrivers and executors of their death, which the objectors suppose not to have been done by any of the former sufferers for Christ. But to this I oppone:
1. Granting, for argument's sake, that they had expressed themselves with some more fervency on that head, than others formerly have done, and that this was a piece of their infirmity, it will not follow that we should presently admit the invidious inference, that therefore they were no martyrs for Christ; for as neither the many gross failings of the Old Testament saints, nor the mistakes of the primitive Christians about the truths for which they suffered, could deprive either of the honour of saintship or martyrdom, so neither ought any infirmity of theirs to be improven against them for that end. Solomon tells us, that oppression makes a wise man mad; and they met with it in the highest degree, and that not from the hands of Pagans, Turks, or Papists, but of those who had been their covenanted brethren by profession; and when a holy self-resigned David had much ado to bear reproaches from the hand of one that had been his equal, guide, and acquaintance, with whom he had formerly sweet fellowship, it was not to be wondered, if they were put upon some vehemency of expression by their severe sufferings from such hands; and should rather be favourably constructed of.
Intumuit pietas, si quid flagrantius actum est."
But, 2. More directly, I am bold to deny the charge; for they everywhere distinguish betwixt the injuries done to them, considered simply in themselves, and the injuries done to Christ, and to His image in them. The former they declare they forgive as they desire forgiveness of God themselves; the latter they leave to God's sovereign disposal, withal wishing that God might give them repentance. Nor is the thing unprecedented; for, beside the example of Jeremiah, who laid his innocent blood at the door of the princes, if they should take his life, there might be several more recent parallels adduced. It shall suffice to instance one of our own nation, imprisoned for bearing witness to the same truth, namely, worthy Mr John Welch, who, in his letter to Lady Fleming, hath these express words: "The
guilt of our blood shall lie upon bishops, councillors, and commissioners, who have stirred up our prince against us, and so upon the rest of our brethren, who either by silence approve, or by crying peace, peace, strengthen the arm of the wicked, that they cannot return, and in the meantime make the heart of the righteous sad. Next, upon all them that sat in council, and did not bear plain testimony of Jesus Christ and His truth, for which we suffer. And next, upon these that should have come and made open testimony of Christ faithfully, although it had been to the hazard of their lives. Finally, all those that counsel, command, consent, and allow, are guilty in the sight of God." Sure I am, this is as full as anything they have on this head, and proves that what they did was consistent with a Christian and forgiving temper of spirit.
And as they went off the stage both with magnanimity and meekness, so it has been observed concerning many of their persecutors, that they departed this world with visible symptoms of God's wrath and judgments, especially with hell in their souls. I mean, the horror of an awakened conscience, under the sense of God's indignation, than which there can be no greater torment in this life.
"Siculi non invenere tyranni
Well, these martyrs are now in heaven, in Abraham's warm bosom, enjoying the crown laid up for them, confirmed in an unchangeable state of rest and blessedness: we are yet in the stage of action and place of probation, we have our trials before us; let us imitate the Cloud of Witnesses, and contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. We know not what storms are abiding us; the Canaanite and the Perizzite are yet in the land. A restless Popish and Jacobite party, projecting a new revolution of affairs; as sanguinary and cruel yet as ever, and retaining as much of the old malignity and enmity against the Covenanted work of Reformation as ever, only waiting an opportunity to exert it; [the Jacobite insur rection in favour of the Pretender took place in 1715-the year after these words were written.-ED.]; and many things in the present aspect of affairs portending, that they may be our scourge in the hand of our displeased Lord, for our misimproving mercies and deliverances, satisfying ourselves with our own things, not minding the things of Christ; chiefly for our undervaluing the offers of the blessed Son of God in the Gospel, and visible breach of national obligations to be for Him and His cause. Seeing then such clouds are gathering, and
threatening a dismal tempest, let us arm ourselves with the same mind, to stand up for the truth upon all hazards, whether we be called of God to do, or to suffer, for the joint interest of true religion and national liberty; for these, like Hippocrates's twins, weep or laugh, live or die together. Righteousness exalteth a nation, said the wise Solomon; and Theodosius the Emperor owned that the establishment of a Christian state depends chiefly upon piety towards God. On the other hand, civil liberty is an excellent bulwark to religion, without which its purity cannot long be preserved; for, as the same Emperor said, "Multa inter ecclesiam et rempublicam cognatio intercedere solet; ex se invicem pendent, et utraque prosperis alterius successibus incrementa sumit;" there is a great sibness [i.e., close relationship], betwixt the Church and the Commonwealth; they depend the one upon the other, and either is advanced by the prosperity and success of the other.
It is to be feared, that this time of ease and outward peace has so effeminated and softened our spirits, that we'll find it hard to face a storm; we may complain with Eusebius, "Res nostrae nimia libertate in mollitiem et segnitiem degenerarunt;" too much liberty has made us soft and sluggish. The vigorous exercise of Christian discipline has been much intermitted, and therefore we have ground to expect severe correction from the hand of God. Cyprian observes, that this was the procuring cause of God's correcting the Church in his time: "Quia traditam nobis divinitus disciplinam pax longa corruperat, jacentem fidem, et pene dixerim dormientem, censura coelestis erexit;" because long peace had corrupted the divinely instituted discipline, therefore, there needed heavenly chastisement to awaken the faith of the Church, which was lying low, and almost fast asleep. All these dying witnesses assure us of judgments abiding this Church and nation, and our present condition seems to say, that we are the people that are to meet with them; how much need then had we of the Christian armour, the divine panoplia, which made these Christians proof against all the fiery darts of Satan and the wicked; and of the holy submission which made them bear the indignation of the Lord patiently, because they had sinned against Him?
AVING thus briefly ushered thee into the following sheets, Christian and candid reader, I shall detain thee no longer from perusing them, save only by the way to take notice of these few advertisements :
1. It is not pretended that here are all the Speeches and Testi
monies of those that suffered in Scotland since the year 1680. many of them, which no doubt are extant, have not come into the hands of the publishers of this collection, and some of them, that were in their hands, did so far coincide with others in matter and phrase, that they left them unpublished, with some remark upon them, to keep up the memory of these honourable sufferers; being desirous that the book should not swell to such a bulk, as might make it less useful to country people, who have not much money to buy, nor leisure to read bulky volumes. And if encouragement be found in this attempt, there may more of them come to be published afterwards. Only this the collectors of these testimonies can say, that they have left out none which were in their hands, that they conceived might be for the benefit of the public, upon any sinistrous view or account. And if any shall find any alteration in any of them from their own manuscripts (except it be in the grammar, wherein they took some little freedom, where necessity required it), they are to impute it to the variety of copies, whereof they had several, and chose that which they conceived most genuine.
2. As for the Testimonies of the Banished, they being much the same as to all material points with these of the dying witnesses, they are omitted, and a list of their names added in the Appendix.
3. The Last Speeches of those who suffered on account of the Earl of Argyle's attempt, in the year 1685, are advisedly pretermitted, both because some of them are already published in a book entitled, "The Western Martyrology," and likewise because it is the opinion of the encouragers of this work, that their testimony was not so directly concerted, according to the true state of the quarrel, for the Covenanted interest of the Church of Christ in Scotland, as it ought to have been; though they intend not hereby to rob them of the glory of martyrdom for the Protestant religion. Nor can this be any prejudice to others, who may incline more fully to publish the transactions of these times. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who enabled His people to witness so good a confession for His truth and cause, make these dying speeches useful to animate all the lovers of the reformed religion, with the like Christian magnanimity and resolution, to stand up for its defence against a Popish, Prelatic, and Jacobitish faction, endeavouring its overthrow! May He unite us in the way of truth and duty, to strive together for the valuable interests of our religion and liberty!
O here of faithful Witnesses a Cloud,
Lo! here they stand, accosting cruel death.
Their souls are only charm'd with things above,