Presuming it is thy desire, to answer the holy and honourable designation I accost thee with, I shall take the confidence to assure thee, it is my design to answer, in some measure, the expectation, which the title of this treatise would offer; in the hope that, wherein I come short (as I indeed confess not only my jealous fears, but my sensible conviction of my insufficiency for such a great undertaking) thy Christian tenderness will impute it to my weakness, and not to any want of worth in the cause I manage; which is truly worthy, weighty, noble, and honourable, in the esteem of all the lovers of Christ, that have zeal, for his honour, in exercise: and therefore as it gives me all the encouragement I have, in dependence on his furniture, whose cause it is, to make such an essay; so it animates my ambition, albeit I cannot manage it with any proportion to its merit, yet to move the christian reader to make inquiry about it; and then sure I am, he will find it is truth I plead for, though my plea be weak. All I shall further say by way of Preface, is to declare the reason of the title, and the design of the work.
Though books use not to be required to render a reason of their names, which often are arbitrarily imposed, more for the author’s fancy, and the times fashion, than for the readers instruction: yet, seeing the times injuries do oblige the author to conceal his name, the title will not obscurely notify it to some, for whose satisfaction this is mainly intended, and signify also the scope of the subject; which aims at giving goodly words, not sugared with parasitic sweetness, nor painted with affected pedantry, but fairly brought forth in an unhampered freedom, for the beauty of the blessing of human and christian liberty, in its due and true boundaries. This was the subject of a discourse, as some may remember, on that text whence this title is taken, Gen. 49:21. Naphtali is a Hind let loose. In prosecuting of which, the speaker, with several others, falling at the same time into the hands of the hunters, (to learn the worth of that interrupted subject from the experience of the want of it) an occasion was given, and interpreted by the author to be a call to study more the preciousness of that privilege predicated of Naphtali, which is the right and property of the wrestling tribe of Israel, the persecuted witnesses of Christ now every where preyed upon. And now, providence having opened a door, for delivering himself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, he thought it his duty, and as necessary a piece of service as he could do to the generation, to bring to light his lucubrations [learned discourses] thereupon: with an endeavour to discover to all that are free born, and are not contented slaves, mancipated to a stupid subjection to tyrants absoluteness; that this character of Naphtali, satisfied with favour and full with the blessing of the Lord, that he is a hind let loose from the yoke of tyrannical slavery, is far preferable, in the account of all that understand to be Christians or men, to that infamous stigma of Issachar (the sin, shame, and misery of this age) to be a strong ass, couching under two burdens; and he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant, and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute. But to all that are not altogether strangers in our Israel, it will appear, that this title is not ineptly applied to the subject and design of this treatise. The party, whose case and cause, and contendings are here treated of, being known to have the same situation of residence in Scotland, that Naphtali had in Israel, viz. the west and the south (Deut. 33:23.) will be found, among all our tribes, most appositely to bear the signature of Napthtali, who, in their wrestlings for the interest of Christ and the liberties of his Israel, have most jeoparded their lives in the high places of the fields; and chiefly to deserve his elogy [explanatory inscription], being a hind (called wild by nickname in the scorn of them that at ease, but) truly weak in their present wilderness condition, to wrestle against the force and fraud of their cruel and cunning hunters, who cease not (when they have not got the rest of the roes and hinds of the field made fast asleep, under the bondage of the lions’ dens and mountains of leopards, by a pretense of a falsely so called liberty of conscience) to seek and pursue the chase of them for a prey; yet, really they are let loose, and not only suffered to run loose, as a prey to the hunters, by the unwatchfulness of their keepers, but made to escape loose, by the mercy of the mighty one of Jacob, from the nets of the hunters, and snares of the fowlers and from the yoke of the bondage of these beasts of prey, to whose authority they will not own a willing subjection: and being such hinds, so let loose, they make it their work, to give goodly words, for the worth and honour, and royalties of their princely master, and for the precious liberties wherewith he hath endoted [endowed] and entrusted his Spouse and children and to keep the goodly words of his patience, until he return as a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether. This being the party, who are represented as the wild folk of Scotland, the design of this treatise is to hold forth the history of their manifold chases, the craft, keenness, and cruelty of their hunters, and the goodliness of the words of their testimony: which, by reason of the likeness of the testimony of former periods with the present, and that the latter may be vindicated by the former, is resumed from the beginning of the Church of Scotland’s wrestlings against the enemies of Christ, and deduced through all the most signal steps of this long propagated and hereditary War. And, lest my words should not be goodly enough, nor my notions graceful to the critics of this age, who cast every thing as new and nice, which is some way singular and not suited to their sentiments; that it may appear the cause here cleared and vindicated is not of yesterday, but older than their grandfathers who oppose it, I dare avouch, without vanity, there is nothing here, but what is confirmed by authors of greatest note and repute in our church, both ancient and modern, namely; [George] Buchanan, [John] Knox, [David] Calderwood, Acts of General Assemblies, [James Guthrie’s] Causes of [God’s] Wrath, [Samuel Rutherfurd’s] Lex Rex, [John Brown’s (of Wamphray)] Apologetical Relation, Naphtali [by James Stirling and James Stewart], [James Stewart’s] Jus Populi [Vindicatum], [John Brown’s (of Wamphray)] History of the Indulgence, [Robert M’Ward’s] Banders Disbanded, [Thomas Forrester’s] Rectius Instruendum, and some other authors much respected; whose authority more always repelled by rage than ever yet resisted by reason, though I value more, than all the vain oblatrations [scoldings] of the opposers of this testimony, and think it sufficient to confute all imputations of its novelty, and to counterbalance the weight that may be laid on the contradictions of the greatest that treat on this subject: yet I do not lay so much stress on the reason of their authority, as on the authority of their reason; which is here represented with that candor and care, that, lest any should cavil, that they are wrested or wronged, when made to speak so patly to the present controversies, I have chosen rather to transcribe their words, than to borrow their matter dressed up in my own; except where the prolixity and multiplicity of their arguments, as clearly demonstrating that which I adduce the for, as that for which they were primarily intended, did impose the necessity of abridging them; which yet is mostly in their own words, though reduced into a syllogistical form. But this obloquy of novelty being anticipated, when I reflect on the helps I have collected from so many hands, I am rather afraid, the truths here delivered be contemned as obsolete and antiquate, than cast at for new speculations. However, I am content, yea it may appear this is an old plea; and that the party here pleaded for, who are stigmatized with many singularities, are a people, who ask the old paths, and the good way, that they may walk therein: and though their paths be not now much paved, by the frequency of passengers, and multitude of Professors walking therein; and albeit it must indeed be confessed, the word of their testimony is some way singular, that the suffering before; yet they are not untrodden paths, but the same way of truth, which hath been maintained by the witnesses of Christ in all the periods of our Church, and asserted by the greatest Confessors, tho’ never before sealed by Martyrs. As for the arguments I bring to clear and confirm them, whether they be accounted mine, or borrowed from others, I am very indifferent, if they prove the point they are brought for, which I hope they will be found to do: but of this I am confident there is nothing here can be condemned, until some one or more of those grave authors be confuted; and, when that is done, (which will be never, or against the 30th of February), there is something besides here, which will challenge consideration.
The design then of this work is of great importance: even no less than to essay the discussing the difficulties of all our conflicts with open enemies, about the present state of the testimony; the vindicating of all the heads of sufferings sustained thereupon these twenty seven years past; the proposing of the right state of the testimony for the interest of Christ, not only of this, but of all former periods; with an account of the propagation and prosecution of the witnessings, wrestlings, and sufferings for it from time to time; to the end it may appear, not only how great the sufferings have been, since this fatal catastrophe and overturning of the covenanted reformation, and unhappy restoration of tyranny and prelacy; but that the grounds, upon which they have been stated, are not niceties and novelties, (as they are reproached and reputed by many), but worthy and weighty truths of great value and validity, and of near affinity unto, and conformity with the continued series and succession of the testimonies in all former periods. So that in this little treatise must be contained a compendious history of the church of Scotland, her testimony in all ages, a vindication of the present state of it; yea, in effect, a short epitome of the substance of those famous forecited authors, as far as we need to consult them, concerning the controversies of the present time with adversaries: which is much, and perhaps too much, to be undertaken in so small a volume. But considering, that many who are concerned in this cause, yea the most part, who concern themselves about it, are such who have neither access, nor time, nor capacity to revolve the voluminous labours of these learned men, for light in this case; I have done my best to bring them into one body of portable bulk, with as great brevity as could consist well with any measure of perspicuity; not meddling with any thing but what I though might some way conduce to clear some part of the present testimony.
Every undertaking, of this nature, cannot but be liable to several disadvantages that are unavoidable; this hath many discouraging and difficult. One is, that it shall be exposed to the common fate of such representations, to be stigmatized as a seditious libel, and so may be sent to the flames to be confuted; and, to inflame the fury of these firebrands, already hell-hot, into the utmost extremity of rage against the author, that ever cruelty itself, at its fullest freedom, did exert, against truth and reason arraigned, and cast for sedition and treason: the only sanctuary in such a case, is, in prospect of this, to have the greater care that nothing be spoken, but what the speaker may dare to affirm in the face of cruelty itself. A second common disadvantage is obvious from the consideration of the humour of the age; wherein fancy hath greater force than faith, and nothing is pleasing but what is parasitical, or attempered to the palate of the greatest, not of the best; and naked truth, without the fairdings [colourings] of flattery, or paintings of that pawkiness [slyness] which is commonly applauded as prudence nowadays, is either boggled at, or exposed to scorn and contempt; and reason, if roundly written, except it meet with an honest heart, is commonly read with a stammering mouth, which puts a T before it, and then it is stumbled at as Treason. This essay does expect no entertainment from any, but such who resolve to harbour truth, be the hazard what will, even when the world raises the Hue and Cry after it, and from such who are really groaning, either by suffering or sympathy, under the same grievances here represented. There is a third, which makes it not a little difficult, the quality, quantity, and intricacy of the matter, here to be confined to such a compend. All which, together considered, do infer a fourth difficulty, that hardly can it get a pass through the press: which is blocked up against all such books that may offer a manifestation of the innocency of that people, and the injustice and inhumanity of their enemies; which is their only hope of preventing the world’s knowledge and condemnation of their actings. Yea, there is a fifth, that wants not its own difficulty; that though the Press were patent, yet an empty purse, from a poor impoverished people, will as readily preclude all access to it, as if it were locked up by law; but both together make it hard. But there is a sixth disadvantage yet more discouraging, that the man, as well as the money, is wanting to manage the business: and this needs no other proof, than the necessity of my poor pen to undertake it, instead of a better. It must needs be very low with that people, that stand in need of such a pitiful patrociny as mine is. Our persecuted brethren, elsewhere, have this advantage of us, tat they have champions to espouse their quarrel, which we have not; but only such who, as they are reputed in the world, so, in their own sense, own themselves to be very unaccomplished for such work; and under this invincible disadvantage also, that, being forced to a wandering and unsettled life, they have no conveniency, nor can be accommodated with time, nor helps to perform it; and so circumstantiated, that either it must be done at this time and in this manner, or not at all. In the seventh place, we are at a greater loss than any suffering people; in that, among all other bitter ingredients, we have this gall also in our cup, that they that suffer most among us, have not the comfort and benefit of the sympathy of theirs, that sufferers use to have from good people. The reason of this makes an eighth discouragement, besides what is said above; that not only is the case and cause of that poor persecuted and wasted witnessing remnant, obscure in itself, and not known in the world, nay, not so much as in the very neighbouring churches of England and Ireland, but also more obscured by the malice of enemies, traducing, calumniating, and reproaching that righteous remnant whom they intend to ruin; not indeed as heretics (which is the case of other suffering churches, wherein they have the advantage of us also; that though the name be more odious, yet it makes the notion of their cause, and the nature of their enemies, more notour [notorious], and is more effectual to conciliate sympathy from all that know that Protestants are persecuted by Papists under the notion of heretics: but we are at a loss in this, that our persecutors, as least the most part of the executioners of the persecution, will not as yet avouch the Protestantism is heresy, though we want not this nickname like wise from the chief of them that are professed Papists) but as schismatics, Seditious, Rebels, Traitors, Murderers, Holding principles inconsistent with Government, (to wit, their tyranny), and the peace of human society, (to wit, their association against religion and liberty), and therefore to be exterminated out of the world. And this imposture, covering all their mischiefs, hath prevailed so far with the blinded world, that under this brand the consideration of their case and cause is buried, without farther inquiry. This were yet more tolerable from open enemies if there were not another more pressing discouragement, in the ninth place, peculiar to them in Scotland; that having to do with treacherous as well as truculent enemies, as they have been much destroyed by open force, so much more by fraud; while, by ensnaring favours, some have been flattered from the testimony, others disdaining and suspecting, as well as deprived of, and secluded from, these favours, have stuck to it; hence defection brought on division, and division confusion, which hath reduced the reformation to a ruinous heap. In the next place, as the consequent of the former, while the purer remnant have been resolutely prosecuting the testimony, and not only keeping themselves free of, and standing at the farthest distance from, all degrees of compliance, but also witnessing against their brethren involved in them and thinking it their duty to discountenance them in these corruptions and backslidings; they have been therefore reproached and misrepresented very industriously, as Ignorant, Imprudent, Transported with blind zeal, Extravagant, wild Separatists, Espousing new and nice notions, rejecters of the ministry, imposes on the ministry deniers of all government, usurpers of an imaginary government of their own, that died as fools, and as guilty of their own blood. By which odious and invidious obloquies [reproaches], they have easily prevailed with many, both at home and abroad, that are more credulous than considerate, to believe these things of them: hence, with prejudicate people, a contrary representation will find difficult acceptance. However, this moreover is another great disadvantage, and renders an essay to vindicate their sufferings very uneasy; that they are thrust at, and tossed on both hands, by enemies and professed friends: and by enemies that are not all Papists, but professed Protestants, owning the same fundamentals in opinion, though in practice not holding the same head: and by friends, that not only are Protestants, but Presbyterians, under the bonds of the same Solemn and Sacred Covenants, the obligation whereof they still own; and not only so, but such, whose piety and godliness cannot be doubted. This is gravamen [grievance] grievous to bear, and greatly aggravates the difficulty. Finally, the greatest of all is, that not only their cause is rendered odious, but must be confessed truly to be odd and some way singular; and therefore will seem strange and surprising to strangers, to hear an account of extraordinary sufferings for and upon extraordinary causes, which never were formerly stated as heads of suffering. For now it is the dragon’s chief stratagem with us, like to be the most subtle, ensnaring, and successful of any, that ever he set on work since ever he began this war with the Lamb, (which yet I hope will prove as fatal to his interest as the former), to bring the sufferings of Christ’s witnesses to such a state, that may seem to spectators little or nothing relative to religion, that so he may destroy both them and their testimony unlamented, and by that trick divert others from concerting that same necessary witness in the season thereof. And, for this end, he will change both matter and manner, in managing the war. He will not now persecute for the old controverted heads of Popery, with fire and faggot, as formerly, for refusing to worship our Lady, or the blessed Sacrament of the Altar. These weapons and engines are so worn out of use, that they will not work now as they did before. And that old bawd [whore] of Babylon is become so ugly, and out of date; that she does not believe her beauty can be so bewitching, except she put on a new busk [decoration]: but her eldest daughter, the Prelatical Church, of the same complexion with herself, except that she is coloured with Protestant paint, is fitter for his service, to allure our land into fornication; and who will not be enticed, must be forced to communion with her, by finings, confinings, exactions, extortions, and impositions of oaths, etc. Religion must be little concerned here; for there is preaching enough, and of Protestant doctrine too, and without the monky [monkish] tricks, and montebank [charlatan] shows, and fopperies [absurdities] of English popish ceremonies, and liturgical service: What would they be at! Is it not better to yield to this, than to fall into the hand of the Scottish-Spanish inquisition, that will rack the purse, the body, and conscience, and all? This is one complex head of suffering, and thought a very small one by many. But now, finding this would not do his business yet, it looked too like religion still: he hath therefore invented a new machine; he will not now persecute, nor force the conscience at all (so good natured is the Devil and his Lieutenant grown, in their old age) for matters of mere religion. Nay, (if we may believe him, who, when he speaketh a lie, speaketh it of his own) he hath not done it this long time, but only, in all this violent courses exercised against these sufferers, he hath been magistratically chastising the disobedience and rebellion of a few turbulent traitors, who would not own the government. And thus, under the notion of rebellion, and disowning authority, he hath had access and success to destroy almost an innumerable number of honest and innocent, faithful and fruitful, lovers of Christ who, though indeed they have had their sufferings stated upon those points, yet I doubt not shall be found among the followers of the Lamb, and confessors and Martyrs of Christ, who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, not loving their lives unto the death, whose blood is crying for vengeance against the shedders thereof: and he will make inquisition for it, when he comes to overturn, overturn, and take his own right, for which they have been contending. Nevertheless this is a prejudice too prevalent with many, to misregard the case and cause of these contenders, or any thing that can be said to represent them favourably. And all these disadvantages, difficulties, and discouragements, together considered, would soon coo my courage, and, at first-blush, make me leave off before I begin were I not persuaded, that it is the cause of Christ these reproached people are suffering for: and that their great sufferings and reproaches are both alike unjust: from both which the Lord will vindicate them, and bring forth their righteousness as the light, and their judgment as the noon-day, in his own time. In confidence of which, depending on his conduct, I shall undertake, as briefly as is possible for me, to represent their case, and clear the cause, so far at least as concerns their contest with their persecuting enemies, with whom I only deal at present: it not being my purpose to descend particularly in their necessitated contendings with complying brethren: partly because they would make the volume to excresce [exceed] unto too great a bulk, and because they are to be seen elsewhere: yet, in effect, these also are not only here narratively deduced, but whatever is odious in them is vindicated, and what is difficult in some measure enodated [cleared].
But it may be expected and desiderated, that I should give a distinct deduction of all the steps of this woeful defection, against which a great part of the testimony hath been stated: but I would have the reader advertised, I touch only that part of the testimony which hath been sealed by severe sufferings from enemies. It were a task transcending my capacity and a theme wherein I have no pleasure, besides that it is inconsistent with my leisure, to enlarge upon such a sad and shameful subject: though the would indeed is at a loss, that they that would do it, cannot, and they that would and should do it, will not; and it is a greater loss, not only to Scotland, but also the whole Christian world, that what hath been done in this kind already cannot see the light, or rather that the Church of Christ is deprived of its light, which through the injury of the times, and the disingenuous prudence of some, who suffer themselves to be imposed upon by patrons of the defection, is embezzled and suppressed. I mean that excellent and faithful History of Defection, the posthumous work of the famous Mr. [Robert] M’Ward, whose praise is in the churches: which if they that have it in keeping, would do themselves the honour and the world the happiness of publishing it, there would be no more need to discover, from whence, to what, and how, that church hath fallen and degenerate; nor so great difficulty in that indisputable and indispensable duty that such a day calls for, in searching and trying our ways, to the end we may turn again to the Lord; nor any necessity for my poor essay, to invite and incite the people of the Lord to take cognizance and compassion of poor perishing Scotland. I wish that they who have it, may consult more their own duty and credit, and what they owe to the memory of the dead, the Church’s edification, the day’s testimony, and the honour of Christ, than to continue robbing the world of such a treasure; which I doubt not to call treason against Christ, and Sacrilege against the Church, and stick not to tell them, if they will not publish it, the world must know there was such a thing done. But it not being my design now, to detect or reflect upon all the defections of that declining, and by declensions divided, and by divisions almost (only not) destroyed Church; I shall meddle with them no further, than what is necessary to clear the cause; referring the knowledge and account of them, either to the notoriety of the grossest of them, or to the more particular enarration [exposition] of them, to be found in papers emitted and published by the contenders against them: of which one is of this same year’s edition, entitled. The Informatory Vindication of a poor, wasted, misrepresented remnant, etc. In which may be evident, that notwithstanding of all this darkness and distress, defection and division, under which the Church of Scotland hath been so long, and is still labouring, there is yet a poor wasted, wounded, rent, and almost ruined, but still wrestling and witnessing remnant of professors and confessors of Christ there, who though they have not only had their souls exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud: but their bodies also killed all day long, and counted as sheep for the slaughter, have yet through grace endeavoured to overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and have not loved their lives dear unto the death, and have continued to this day contending both against professed enemies, and also declining friends, sustaining from both the utmost of rage and reproach. And since that little book gives an account, what their contendings have been against their backdrawing brethren on the right and left hand, I shall spare labour to offer a discussion of them, only endeavour to make it not difficult to decide and determine, on whose side truth lies, by what is here hinted.
I shall conclude, with advertising the reader of one thing further; that, as this reproached people, for whose testimony I am pleading, is now the only party that is persecuted in Scotland, (some few excepted, who are exempted from the pretended favour of the current indemnities) and their persecution still continues, notwithstanding of the impudent, as well as ensnaring declarations of universal liberty to all dissenters, which they look upon as their honour and happiness, to be though incapable of tyrannical and antichristian favours; so their past and present oppressions and sufferings are only here in general aggregated, described as to their kinds, and vindicated as to their causes: the particular deduction of their number, weight, and measure, of their names that have been martyred and murdered, both by formality of law, by sea and land, city and country, on scaffolds, and in the fields; of the manner of their sufferings: and of the form of their trials and testimonies, being intended shortly (if the Lord will) to be emitted and published in a book by itself; which will discover to the world as rare instances of the injustice, illegality, and inhumanity of the Scottish inquisition, and of the innocency, zeal, ingenuity, and patience of the witnesses of Christ, as readily can be instanced in these latter ages. Only here is a taste till more come: which if the Lord shall bless for its designed end, the glory of God, the vindication of truth, the information and satisfaction of all serious sympathizers with Zion’s sorrows, and the conviction or confutation of reproachers, so far, at least, as to make them surcease from their invidious charge of things whereof the innocency is here vindicated, I have obtained all my design, and shall desire to give the Lord the praise.
It will not be unprofitable for the reader, to cast his eye upon these sentences of great Authors, which relate to some heads of the following discourse
Translated from their Originals.
Erasmus. As a Woodcock, otherwise loud, being taken becomes dumb; so slavery renders some men speechless, who, if they were free, would tell their minds freely.
Nazianzen. Discord is better for the advantage of piety, than dissembled concord.
Bernard. But if scandal arise for the truth, it is better to suffer scandal, than relinquish truth.
Bracton. He is a king who rightly governs, a tyrant who oppresses his people.
Cicero. He loses all right to government, who, by that government, over-turns the common weal.
Aristotle. He who obeys the law, obeys both God and the law, who obeys the king, a man and a beast.
Sueton. They are not bound to be loyal to a wicked king, under the pains of perjury.
Ambrose. He that does not keep off injury from his neighbour, if he can do it, is as much in the fault, as he who does it.
Chamier. But all subjects have right of resisting tyrants, who by open force acquire dominion.
Barclay. Against Contenders for Monarchy. All antiquity agrees, that tyrants can, most justly, be attack’d and slain, as public enemies, not only by the public, but also by individual persons.