It is not without reason reckoned among the peculiar prerogatives of the renowned church of Scotland, that Christ’s conquest in the conversion of that nation, is one of the most eminent accomplishments of scripture prophecies, of the propagation of his kingdom in the new Testament dispensation; not only because it was, when called out of Gentile Paganism, among the rudest of Heathen nations, and in the acknowledgment of all, among the uttermost parts of the earth, which were given to Christ for his inheritance and possession; whereunto he had, and hath still undoubted right, by his Father’s grant, and by his own purchase; and took infeofment of it by a glorious conquest of that land, which the Roman arms could never subdue; and erected his victorious trophies there, whither their triumphs could never penetrate; obtaining and thereby accomplishing that predicted song of praise, From the uttermost parts of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. Which gives us ground to expect, that however Christ’s interest there be now very low, and like to be lost as a prey in the Dragon’s mouth, yet Christ, having such undoubted and manifold right to it, will not so easily quit or forego his possession; but also, because he hath so constantly continued his possession, and maintained his title, by a long course of contendings, by the testimonies of his witnesses, against the invaders thereof, through all the periods of the church, from the very infancy of this new dispensation; and because, Scotland’s conversion unto the christian faith was among the first fruits of the Gentiles, of the oldest date, that any standing church holding the head Christ this day can deduce its original from. For it is clear from ancient records, the Christian faith was embraced here a few years after the ascension of our Savior, being taught by the disciples of John the Apostle; and received afterwards great increment from the Britons flying to Scotland, to escape the persecution of the Emperor Domitian, and was long promoted by the ancient Culdees, or (worshippers of God) men, whose memory is still fragrant for piety and purity of faith and life, who continued some hundreds of years, under various vicissitudes of providence, before either Prelacy or Popery was known in Scotland. They were first universally encourage by king Cratilinth, in the time of the last persecution under Dioclesian, which brought many of Christ’s witnesses hither for shelter, who were very helpful for the settling of truth, and the total extirpation of the idolatry of the Druids, the heathen priests, whereby the pure doctrine, worship and government also of Christ’s institution, was established and continued many years, while these witnesses of Christ had no other emulation but of well doing, and to advance piety. In this period, these ancient, and first confessors and witnesses of Christ, did wrestle strenuously, according to their strength and light, for the truths and words of Christ’s patience, controverted in their day, both against professed enemies, Pagan, Persecutors and Priests, and pretended friends, corrupters of the faith. Their testimony was stated in a peculiar manner, for the verity, value and virtue of Christ’s natures and offices, in asserting his truths relative to either, against the malignants and sectaries of their time; particularly for the concerns of his prophetical office. And though we be at a loss, that for the most part their witness is buried in oblivion, through the darkness of the times succeeding; yet the scrapes and fragments that are left, do furnish us with these few remarks.
I. They maintained the verity of the christian doctrine, against both Pagan Persecutors and heretical perverters; and the purity of his instituted worship, without the vanity of human inventions, or conformity with, either the Druids on the one hand, or the Heretics on the other, with which, sometime before the end of that period, they were infested; chiefly the Pelagians, with whom the faithful would have no communion; but abstracted themselves in a monastical life, living and exercising their religion in Cells, from whence many places in the country yet retain the name, as Kilmarnock, Kilpatrick, etc. that is the Cells of these eminent men among the Culdees. And their government also was that of the primitive order, without bishops, with little vanity, but great simplicity and holiness. Many authors do testify, that near about 400 years, the church of Scotland knew nothing of the Episcopal hierarchy, until Palladius brought it in, and not without great opposition.
II. In these recesses, they had the advantage, both of outward peace, when others were in trouble, and of inward peace of conscience, when others were debauched with many conjurations and abjurations, combinations and confederacies, imposed and extracted by them that prevailed for the time, whereby they might both keep themselves free of ensnaring oaths, perfidious compliances, and associations with the wicked, and also entertain and encourage the oppressed for equity, who fled unto the sanctuary for safety. We find they refused to enter into league with malignant enemies. One memorable passage I shall insert (though strictly it belong not to this Period, as I distinguish it, yet falling out, within 80 years thereafter, in the time of the Culdees, it will not obscurely evidence the truth of this) Goranus the 45th king of Scots, earnestly dissuaded Lothus king of Picts to entertain the league with the Saxons, not only because they were treacherous and cruel, but because they were enemies to the country and to the religion they professed, concluding thus: Homini vero Christinano id longe omnium vinderi, etc. But to a Christian nothing must seem more grievous, than to consent to such a covenant, as will extinguish the christian religion, and reduce the profane customs of the heathen, and arm wicked tyrants, the enemies of all humanity and piety, against God and his law. Whereupon Lothus was persuaded to relinquish the Saxons, Buchan, Histor, Rer. Scotic.
III. Though they were not for partaking in wicked unnecessary wars, without authority, or against it; yet we have ground to conclude, they were for war, and did maintain the principle of resisting tyranny; since there was never more of the practice of it, nor more happy resistances in any age, than in that; where we find, that, as their ancestors had frequently done before, so they also followed their footsteps, in resisting, reducing to order, repressing, and bringing to condign punishment tyrants and usurpers; and thought those actions, which their fathers did by the light of nature and dictates of reason, worthy of imitation, when they had the advantage of the light of revelation and dictates of faith; the one being indeed moderate and directed, but no ways contradicted by the other. Therefore we read, that, as their predecessors had done with Thereus the 8th king of Scotland whom they banished in the year before Christ’s incarnation 173; with Durstus the 11th king, whom they slew in battle in the year before Christ 107; Evenus the 3d, who was imprisoned, and died there, in the year before Christ 12; Dardanus the 20th king, who was taken in battle, beheaded by his own subjects, his head exposed to mockage, and his body cast into a sink, in the year of Christ 72; Luctatus the 22d king, who was slain for his lechery and tyranny in the year 110, Mogaldus the 23d king, slain in the year 113; Conarus the 24th king, a lecherous tyrant, died in prison in the year 249; Satrael the 26th king hanged in the year 159. So, after the Christian faith was publickly professed, they pursued Athirco the 29th king, when degenerate into tyranny, who was forced to kill himself in the year 231. They slew Nathalocus the 30th king, and cast him into a privy [toilet] in the year 241. They beheaded Romachus the 36th king, and carried about his head for a show in the year 348. As they did with many others afterwards, as witnesseth Buchanan, book 4th, Scottish history.
IV. Whence it is evident, that as they attained, even in these primitive times, and maintained the purity and freedom of their ministry, independent on Pope, Prelate, or any human supremacy (that Antichristian Hierarchy and Erastian blasphemy not being known in those days) so they contended for the order and boundaries of the magistracy, according to God’s appointment, and the fundamental constitutions of their government; and thought it their duty to shake off the yoke, and disown the authority of these Tyrants that destroyed the same. Yea, we find, that even for incapacity, stupidity and folly, they disowned the relation of a magistrate, and disposed of the government another way, as they did with Ethodius the 2d, whose authority they did own, but only to the title. See Buchanan in the before cited place.