THE PIETY, PRINCIPLES, AND PATRIOTISM OF SCOTLAND’S COVENANTED MARTYRS;
WITH APPLICATION TO THE PRESENT TIMES.
PASTOR OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CONGREGATION, GREENOCK.
[A Sermon preached in Greyfriars’ Churchyard, Edinburgh, on Sabbath, 20th June, 1880, on the Bi-centenary of the Covenanting struggle; and re-delivered, by request, on Sabbath, 11th July, in the Dock Park, Dumfries; and on Sabbath, 25th July, at Renwick’s Monument, Glencairn.]
“Thou hadst a favour unto them.”—PSALM. 44:3.
“Whose faith follow” (imitate).—HEBREWS. 11:7.
THROUGHOUT the greater part of the forty-fourth Psalm we feel the beat of the pulse of the oppressed, we hear the cry of the martyr. In the opening verses, the inspired penman recalls some of the ancient glories of his country, the memories of which had been fast sinking into the azure of the past. He recites the deeds of an Omnipotent arm for Israel in the days of old. The Amorite and the Hittite and the Anakim had been driven out of the promised land, and over Jericho and Ai and Hebron there waved the banner of victorious Israel. From Dan to Beersheba, and from Jordan to the sea, the vine from Egypt had stretched, and the chosen people of the living God were planted in their place. Great was this work of conquest; mighty this revolution in Canaan! Did Joshua and Caleb and their hosts perform it by their own arm? Did their own swords cut the alien armies in sunder? No; for “they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them.” God’s sovereign goodness was the originating cause, and God’s almighty arm the performing agent of all.
But, having thus raised a memorial to the goodness of God to his fathers, the Psalmist proceeds to lament the evils and tribulations under which his beloved land and the faithful laboured. “Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat.” “Thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death.” “Our soul is bowed down to the dust.” And in the midst of these sighs he turns his face to Him who had done so great things “in the times of old,” and prays fervently that He would put forth His arm and build up the broken walls. “Thou art my King, O God, command deliverances for Jacob.” “Awake, why sleepest Thou, O Lord; arise, cast us not off for ever.” “Arise for our help, and redeem us for Thy mercies’ sake.”
These words are written for our instruction, and the application of them to these covenanted lands, and especially to Scotland, is evident. For “we have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” Two hundred years ago, a great Reformation was accomplished in this land. Ancient forms of error and superstition, mighty like Anak’s giant sons, were hurled from the place of their usurped dominion. Scotland rid herself of the bonds of idolatry, and placed upon her throne King Jesus—her own Sovereign by everlasting decree. A people who entered into covenant with God were planted in the land, and truth and liberty raised their heads in triumph. Did Scotland accomplish this great Reform in her own might! Is she entitled to attribute her deliverance to any arm of flesh? Nay; for “they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them.” God’s free favour and mighty power were the cause of all. And when we consider present defections from the lofty Scriptural attainments of the past, the general disregard of the claims of the King of Nations, the many and determined assaults upon the foundations of Christianity, and the low state of practical religion, every lover of Christ; and of his country may well sorrow with the sorrowing Psalmist, and pray the prayers he prayed. “Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face; . . . for our soul is bowed down to the dust: . . . arise for our help, and redeem us for Thy mercies’ sake.”
A little before he pens our selection from the Hebrews, the sacred writer has been presenting a list of some of the Worthies of Old Testament times—holding forth the fathers of the grey morning of the world’s history for imitation by the people of God in New Testament times. He commemorates the faith and deeds of Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Gideon, and others. And we may well believe that when he calls upon the Hebrews to follow the faith of “those who have the rule over you,” he had not forgotten the list of the heroes of the faith which he had been enumerating. Admiration of those eminent saints was not enough: the noblest eulogies upon their personal character and public deeds would be of little account. Something more was desired; something better was necessary. “Whose faith follow.” Let admiration pass forth into imitation. Be like them in faith, in self-denial, in holiness, in constancy, in the high heroism of battling for God. If that list of faith’s nobles were continued by some inspired hand till the present times, there would doubtless appear in it the names of those who, two centuries ago, “for Christ’s royal truth and laws, and Scotland’s Covenanted Reformation,” jeoparded their lives in the high places of the field. By faith the Marquis of Argyle esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the honours of his high rank, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith Richard Cameron and his compatriots nailed their Declaration to the Cross of Sanquhar, not fearing the wrath of the King, for they endured as seeing Him who is Invisible. By faith Margaret M‘Lachlan and Margaret Wilson beheld with composure, as they were tied to the stake, the rising of the waters that were to engulf them, for they judged Him faithful that had promised. And what shall we more say, for time would fail us to tell of Donald Cargill, and of Hugh M‘Kail, and of John Brown, and of David Hackston, and of James Renwick, who “through faith subdued kingdoms, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens; they were stoned, were slain with the sword, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy.”
But mere admiration of these heroes is not sufficient in the way of commemoration. The most eloquent eulogies upon their character and exploits will fail to form a sufficient tribute to their memory. It is not enough though our hearts were melted at the recital of their sufferings, and though we were moved to tears as we look upon the place where reposes their hallowed dust. Our aims in the commemoration of their noble struggle must be higher. It should be ours to seek that a double portion of the spirit of martyred fathers might rest upon their sons—their mantles falling upon the shoulders of the men of this generation. It should be ours to renew our acquaintance with and redouble our efforts for the extension of the knowledge of those everlasting doctrines for which they contended to the death. It should be ours to pray and labour to induce these covenanted nations to lift up the banner for the supremacy of King Jesus, under which the martyred band went forward, and to unfurl every fold of it to the breeze. It should be ours to awaken the whole people to a sense of present dangers and present duties that, with united hearts as with one heart, we might give Jehovah no rest till His Anointed and Appointed King should be brought back again to Britain, and till glory greater than ever should have her habitation in the land. This would be the noblest tribute we could render to the memory of Scotland’s Covenanted Martyrs; this a more appropriate and lasting memorial than forests of monumental pillars of marble; this the finest chaplet we could wreathe around their tomb. Let our admiration of the martyrs include our adoption of their testimony; let our commemoration of their struggle include the unflinching maintenance by us of the Scriptural principles which made that struggle glorious. So shall we escape the withering curse of our Lord upon the pretended admirers of the martyrs of old:—”Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the Prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the Prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which have killed the Prophets.”
I. SCOTLAND’S COVENANTED MARTYRS WERE CHRISTIANS OF EMINENT PIETY.
They were eminently pious because “Thou hadst a favour unto them.” That piety we are to imitate.
When they look back to the Reformers and Martyrs, people in general direct their attention more particularly to the attitude assumed by those men as public witnesses and national benefactors than to their personal devotion to Christ and the eminent holiness of their character. We think rather of John Knox the Reformer than of John Knox the fearer of God; of Richard Cameron the undaunted opponent of tyranny than of Richard Cameron the man of prayer; of James Renwick the public heroic sufferer than James Renwick the saint. Yet, this is as if we should admire more the streams than the fountain; as if we should concentrate our attention upon the light to the exclusion of the sun whence it emanates. The streams that irrigate the waste and make the desert blossom as the rose flow from the fountain; the light that dispels the darkness and floods the world with glory, comes from the great luminary of the day. The reformers and martyrs succeeded in beautifying the moral wilderness with righteousness and filling the nations with light, because of the purity of their soul and the heavenly light that shone in their understanding—that fountain of purity within being supplied from the river of water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne, and that light emanating from the uncreated Sun of Righteousness that had arisen upon them with healing in His wings. Yes, the reformers and martyrs were social regenerators because they were regenerate men; they were eminent sufferers because they were eminent Christians; they were illustrious reformers because they were illustrious saints. But for their piety, the Reformation and the subsequent valiant struggle in its defence never would have been accomplished.
The martyrs were Christians of great piety because they were Christians of strong faith. Their faith was the root of their piety, and by that faith they were unmoved. They had a personal interest in the Saviour of sinners; rested on Christ alone for Salvation, and believed in Him. They were not men of weak faith; they were men of mighty faith. Had their faith been weak, they would have failed before the difficulties that confronted them, they would have bowed their heads, like the willows, before the blasts that swept around them. They trusted God much, and God strengthened them mightily. He set their feet on a rock and established their goings. By faith they resisted every shock of their many and mighty adversaries, as the rock in the ocean breasts the giant billows and dashes them back in foam. They were pavilioned in the tent of the Lord of Hosts, and they feared not though tens of thousands were round about them. Their demeanour in the face of appalling dangers was marvellous. There was no perturbation of spirit; there was the utmost composure; yea, there was exceeding peace and joy. Trusting in the Lord and compassed by the Angel of the Lord, they felt that their hearts were safe. Their foes might be successful in their assaults upon the outer defences—they might tear their bodies in pieces and trample them in the dust, but upon their souls no injury could be inflicted. Impregnable was the citadel of their souls. They were castled within the everlasting covenant; fortressed by Almighty God.
“He that doth in the secret place
Of the Most High reside;
Under the shade of Him that is
The Almighty shall abide.”
Within that fortress they had every comfort; they laid their heads on a soft and downy pillow.
“His feathers shall thee hide, thy trust
Under His wings shall be;
His faithfulness shall be a shield
And buckler unto thee.”
“I do not say I am free of sin,” said old Donald Cargill at the scaffold, “but I am at peace with God through a slain Mediator. I bless the Lord that these thirty years and more I have been at peace with God, and was never shaken loose of it; and now I am as sure of my interest in Christ and peace with God, as all within this Bible and the Spirit of God can make me. And now this is the sweetest and most glorious day that ever my eyes did see.” “What do I see,” said Margaret Wilson to her murderers, as they pointed her to the waters closing over Margaret M‘Lachlan, her companion in tribulation, “What do I see but Christ struggling there? Think ye that we are the sufferers? No, it is Christ in us, for He sends none a warfare on their own charges.”
“Tyrants! could not misfortune teach
That man had rights beyond your reach?
Thought ye the torture and the stake
Could that intrepid spirit break,
Which, even in woman’s breast, withstood,
The fury of the fire and flood.”
The martyrs were men of consuming love for Christ, and entire consecration to His service. Theirs was a love which cruel mockings could not damp; a love which the boot that made the white marrow swim in purple gore could not abate; a love which the swelling waters could not drown; a love which the scaffold could not expel; a love which, by the faggots and the fire, was fanned into a brighter flame. For, many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. Though a man were to give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned. The martyrs felt they were redeemed men; redeemed by the most glorious person in the universe—the mighty God; redeemed at an enormous price—not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot; redeemed from the most degraded and most dreadful of all conditions—from sin and all its dread everlasting consequences; redeemed to the possession of an undefiled and unfading inheritance for ever; redeemed perfectly, for by one offering He hath perfected for ever all them that are sanctified; and redeemed wholly—soul, body, and spirit redeemed. A sense of being thus redeemed enabled the martyrs to stand forth in heaven’s own majesty. How shall they make some return to Him who, by His unparalleled sufferings for them, has laid them under such an insolvent debt of gratitude? They will make a total surrender of themselves to Him who gave Himself wholly for them. They will consent, yea, they will count it all joy to be laid on the altar of sacrifice in love to Him who by the cords of His own everlasting love bound Himself on the cross of Calvary for them. What cared they for the shame of their sufferings? They are ready to be esteemed the offscouring of all things for the sake of Him who for them was exposed to shame and spitting, and became a curse. Calvary to Christ was more glorious than his throne to Caesar, and the Grassmarket of Edinburgh was more glorious to the martyrs than the frowning castle or gorgeous palace to its Stuart owner. Jesus transformed the shame of His sufferings into glory, so that the offence of the cross has for ever ceased; and the shame around the scaffolds of the martyrs has been transformed likewise into pre-eminent honour. “Then let him glorify God in the Grassmarket,” was the sneer of Lauderdale, as he relegated a poor saint to the place of execution. But the blasphemous sneer has been transfigured into glory, and Jehovah has encircled the names and memories of the sufferers with imperishable renown. Love, consuming love; consecration, entire consecration. “I am one of Christ’s,” said Margaret Wilson, as they tempted her to recant, “I am one of Christ’s, let me go. I think my life little enough in the quarrel of owning my Lord and Master’s sweet truth, for He hath freed me from everlasting wrath, and redeemed me.” “I take God to witness,” said James Guthrie as he stood upon the ladder, “that I would not exchange this scaffold with the palace or the mitre of the greatest prelate in Britain.”
And what shall I more say of the elements of their eminent piety? What of their peace—that peace that passeth all understanding, and fortifies the heart and mind in Christ Jesus? “I go up this ladder,” said M‘Kail, “with as little fear as I go to my father’s house. Every step is a degree nearer heaven.” What of their hope—that hope that is as an anchor of the soul sure and steadfast, entering into that that is within the veil? “This is the day,” said Richard Cameron on the morning of Ayrsmoss, “This is the day we shall get the crown.” “Oh, how can I contain this!” said James Renwick, “to be within a few hours of glory.” What of their joy—that joy that is unspeakable, and full of glory? “I hear the voice,” said Marion Harvie as she came out of the Tolbooth for execution, “I hear the voice of my Beloved, saying unto me, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away?’” What of their meekness, their patience, their holiness, their brotherly love, their fidelity, their fortitude? All these fruits of the Spirit they bore plenteously. And, of their whole piety, Jesus was the Author and Finisher.
Doubtless the piety of the martyrs was rendered more sterling, and shone forth more brilliantly, by reason of the afflictions wherewith they were afflicted. Trees of righteousness, they were pruned that they might bring forth more fruit; jewels of gold they were put into the furnace—heated seven times—that the pearls of their graces might sparkle by the fiery trial. He who sat as the Refiner and Purifier brought out more clearly His own image upon them.
“When the righteous had fallen, and the combat had ended,
A chariot of fire through the dark cloud descended.
Its drivers were angels on horses of whiteness,
And its burning wheels turned on axles of brightness.
“And a seraph unfolded the door bright and shining,
All dazzling like gold of the seventh refining:
And the souls that had come out of great tribulation,
They mounted the chariots and steeds of salvation.
“On the arch of the rainbow the chariot is gliding,
Through the path of the thunder the horsemen are riding;
Glide swiftly, bright spirits, the prize is before you,
A crown never fading, a kingdom of glory.”
The piety of the martyrs was eminent, because it rested on right foundations—on the doctrines of the Book of Inspiration. It rested, not on the rubbish of self-righteousness, nor on the sand of self-will, but upon the everlasting rock of revealed truth. Those eminent saints believed in the great doctrines of election—sovereign, absolute; predestination; the total depravity of human nature by the fall; the substitution of Christ in the room of sinners; regeneration by the Spirit alone; justification by faith alone in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ; the perseverance of the saints; an eternal hell; and an eternal heaven. The martyrs’ piety had its roots in the everlasting Covenant, and drew its inspiration from the everlasting God. The doctrine of sovereign grace—of God all in all in the plan, execution, and application of redemption, was the soil on which their piety flourished—the doctrine of Knox; of Luther; of Augustine; of Paul; of Him who came from the Father’s bosom to reveal the Father’s will, for, said He; “No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me, draw him.” By reason of their belief in these doctrines, the martyrs cast forth their roots as Lebanon and stood forth majestic as the cedars—because “Thou hadst a favour unto them.”
“Whose faith follow.” Whose piety imitate. Several Christian denominations contest with each other the honour of the ecclesiastical representation of the reformers and martyrs. They eagerly claim to be their faithful followers and the true representatives of the Church of the Reformation and the times of Persecution. Is the contention so strong to be regarded as the representatives of the piety of those holy men? Are church members as desirous of imitating them in their piety as of being regarded as the faithful adherents of their principles? Is there not reason to call upon Christians to be imitators of the martyrs in their faith in, and love for Christ, in their self-denial, and entire consecration to the service of Christ? Why attempt to create a divorce between imitation of the martyrs as to tile maintenance of their principles and imitation of the martyrs in their piety. The Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor His ear heavy that it cannot hear. Ye are not straitened in God, ye are straitened in yourselves. Though our martyred fathers are no more, the God of our fathers liveth. He is from everlasting to everlasting God. The Saviour of the martyrs is still a willing and Almighty Saviour; and, as an ambassador of the Lord of Hosts having the ministry of reconciliation, we offer you that Saviour and all the benefits purchased by the sacrifice of Himself. Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely. We offer you the salvation in which the martyrs rejoiced; the Saviour whom they loved; the God in whom they gloried. If you would maintain the martyrs’ principles, believe in and love the martyrs’ God. Oh, for a baptism of the Holy Ghost upon all the people in these lands! Oh, that the God of Cameron and Cargill and Renwick would cause His saving and enlightening influences to descend in rich abundance, that multitudes would say, “I am the Lord’s,” and would “subscribe with their hand to the Lord, and surname themselves with the name of Israel.” The strength of Britain this day is not in her armies nor her ironclads, but in those who are the disciples of Christ. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” “The holy seed is the substance thereof.” Would that the number of these were greater! The work of national reformation, at present loudly demanded, requires men of faith, self-denial, holiness, piety—men in whose souls, as in the souls of reformers two hundred years ago, runs deep and strong the current of everlasting life; men who are firmly rooted in the everlasting covenant; men who draw their power from Jacob’s mighty God. “They that trust in the Lord shall be strong and do exploits.” “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon and he blew a trumpet, and all Abiezer was gathered after him.” “Whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”
II. SCOTLAND’S COVENANTED MARTYRS WERE CHURCHMEN OF ENLIGHTENED VIEWS AND BROAD SYMPATHIES.
They were so because “Thou hadst a favour unto them.” In these views and sympathies let us imitate them.
The work to which the Scottish Reformers were called, was a great work. Mountains of ecclesiastical and civil opposition to the claims of Christ, the universal and only Monarch, had to be leveled; and the people required to be lifted up from the depths of ignorance and superstition. How are the reformers to bring down these mountains, elevate these valleys, and prepare the way of the Lord? How can they pull down the principalities and powers and spiritual wickednesses in high places? How arouse the multitude from their deep sleep, and possess them with those liberties to which they had been perfect strangers? Where are the weapons for this mighty moral warfare? A perfect armour is provided: it is the Word of the living God. This is the rod of strength; this the hammer to break the rock; this the sharp two-edged sword. By means of this the Reformers are destined to level the mountains and elevate the valleys. And by means of it they moved Scotland and brought it to the feet of King Jesus. Jehovah ordained strength out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, that He might still the enemy and the avenger. “For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them.”
The great and leading doctrine then, and the doctrine that underlay all the other doctrines for which the Reformers contended and the martyrs died, was the Supremacy of the Scriptures as the Word of God—the Scriptures, the whole Scriptures, and nothing but the Scriptures. In all matters of faith and duty, the Word of God was their court of appeal, and God, speaking in His Word, was their sole Judge of appeal. The Word of God was to them the supreme, and alone infallible standard. The question with them was not, What saith popular taste? or, What saith convenience? or, What saith tradition?—but, What saith the Word of God? “I’ll hear what God the Lord will speak.” That Word of God was above Protestant minister; above Papal priest; above Councils, ecumenical though they be called; above Papal Decrees, promulgated though they be by a Pontiff proclaimed Infallible; above Assemblies, however learned and godly; above Cabinets, and Commons, and Lords; above Sovereigns and Emperors. In the re-erection in Scotland, two hundred years ago, from its ruins of the Zion of the Holy One of Israel, this doctrine of the Supreme authority of the Scriptures was the foundation stone: adopted and applied, it elevated the Church and nation to moral majesty. It was the boast of the builders that they took their pattern “not from Rome, not even from Geneva, but from the blessed Word of God.”
In those Scriptures, the Reformers found a doctrine that was of special importance in the accomplishment of their Herculean labour. It was the doctrine of the Exclusive Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over the Church. As they searched the Word, this precious truth was ever flashing before their eyes. Jesus Christ was appointed King in the Church by the Father’s everlasting decree; He was anointed to be the Church’s King; He laid down His life for the Church, so securing a right to reign over her; and when His work on earth was done, and He returned to the Father, He was formally invested with this exclusive control. For the suffering of death, He was crowned with glory and honour. This royal prerogative of Headship over the Church, which belongs exclusively to the enthroned Messiah, must not be usurped. To claim or exercise this prerogative is blasphemy, whether it be by priest or presbyter, premier or potentate, or by any other person or power whatever. The Church, having Christ for her own and only Lord, must call no man master. She possesses an independent jurisdiction under her King and Lawgiver, and in the exercise of that jurisdiction she is required and entitled to be free. As Christ’s spiritual kingdom, she must not submit that the prerogative of her King be invaded, nor permit any to wrest from her the liberties with which her King has endowed her. In the First Reformation, this precious doctrine was vindicated gloriously by the liberation of the Church from Papal domination; in the Second Reformation it was vindicated yet more gloriously by the liberation of the Church from prelatic domination. At the beginning of the Second Reformation and against the attempts of the reigning monarch to invade the prerogative of King Jesus and subvert the liberties of the Church, the Glasgow Assembly of 1638 emitted a testimony for this doctrine which shall be ever memorable. Refusing to comply with the behests or be deterred by the threats of the King’s Commissioner, the Assembly proceeded to annul all the acts of the corrupt assemblies by which Prelacy had been introduced; to set aside the infamous Five Articles of Perth to abolish tile Book of Canons, the Liturgy, and Book of Ordination; to condemn Diocesan Episcopacy, or Prelacy, passing an act that “all Episcopacy different from that of a pastor over a particular flock was abjured in this Kirk, and to be removed out of it;” to restore those constitutional rights and liberties by Sessions, Synods, and Assemblies, of which they had been deprived by Prelatic usurpation; and by other similar Scriptural measures to maintain the honour of King Jesus and the independence of His kingdom. It mattered not that upon that Assembly the royal countenance frowned while the light of God’s countenance shone; for their noble work was not accomplished by their own arm, but by “Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance, because Thou hadst a favour unto them.” The words of Alexander Henderson, the able Moderator of that noble Assembly, when bringing the proceedings to a close, merit a lasting memorial:—“We have now cast down the walls of this modern Jericho; let him that re-buildeth them beware of the curse of Hiel the Bethelite.” That Assembly of 1638 was, in short, the very Bannockburn of the Church’s spiritual freedom.
It will .be evident from this reference to the work of the Glasgow Assembly, that the Reformers maintained that the form of Church Government laid down in the Scriptures, and sanctioned by the Church’s King, was Presbyterian. Their principle here was this:—The Presbyterian form of Church Government is the only form prescribed in the Bible, and therefore of Divine right and original. They did not suppose that several distinct and differing forms of government were to be found in this infallible standard, and that Christians were at liberty to select the form that would best suit their taste or convenience. If it were so, there would be some good reason to argue that the Head of the Church, who is also the Author of the Scriptures, did not know or did not care to reveal the form of government that might best promote the Church’s highest interests. But the Reformers and Martyrs had not so learned Christ. Their search of the Statute Book of their King was rewarded by the discovery of the great outstanding principles of Presbyterianism, and nowhere could they find a warrant for Independency or Episcopacy. Hence, they valiantly contended for the former and resisted the latter to the utmost, realizing that the honour of their King and the rights of His subjects were involved in the struggle.
Moreover, the Reformers brought themselves into complete subjection to the Scriptures as to its directions affecting worship in the Church. Hence they removed all rites and ceremonies therein that were opposed to the prescriptions of the Word, or for which no Scriptural warrant could be produced. This was following out the Supremacy of the Scriptures and the Headship of Christ to one of their last and grandest conclusions. It was like the lopping off of the topmost boughs of papal superstition and ecclesiastical corruption. It was the erection of the headstone of the corner, and the ornamentation of the ecclesiastical structure. The Reformers of the First Reformation grasped this principle tenaciously and applied it with much thoroughness. John Knox enunciated this principle in such words as these:—“It becomes the Kirk of Jesus Christ to admit what He speaketh, and when He maketh end of speaking or lawgiving there to rest. All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the worship of God without His own express commandment is idolatry.” So said all the Reformers. By this principle Knox and his co-Reformers wiped away all the Christ-dishonouring ceremonies of the Church of Rome. And by the still more thorough application of it in the Second Reformation, when, by its unauthorized rites, Episcopacy still marred the Church’s beauty, Henderson and his co-Reformers loosed the Church from these bands of her neck, and arrayed her in the beautiful garments her King had prescribed for her. The simplicity of the Church’s worship is her special adornment. It would have been well had the English Reformers risen to the same high platform of principle, but they conceded to the Church a power to decree rites and ceremonies, and because of this, to a large extent, the English Church to-day is a productive recruiting ground for Rome. The Reformation in Scotland was a “root and branch Reformation.” “It is not brick nor clay,” said Rutherford, “nor Babel’s cursed timber and stones that is in our second temple; but our blessed King Jesus is building His house all palace work and carved stones. It is the habitation of the Lord.”
Out of these enlarged views of doctrine and duty arose that catholicity of spirit and those broad sympathies which were such prominent characteristics of the Reformers and Martyrs. They mourned over the evils of the Church and land in their times. They longed for the salvation of souls, and laboured to bring men to the feet of Jesus. They concerned themselves with the public weal, and devoted themselves to the good of all. Intensely did they love the Church which their own Saviour had purchased, and their own King ruled. “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; let the tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” Earnestly did they labour to secure union and uniformity in doctrine, discipline, worship, and government, among professing Christians. Their union aims embraced not the people of Scotland only, but those of the three kingdoms. “We do welcome,” said Rutherford, “England and Ireland to our Well-Beloved.” “Oh, when,” said Renwick, “shall those be agreed on earth that are agreed in heaven. Methinks if the shedding of my blood would effect this, I would count it a small sacrifice for so great an object.”
By these doctrines, then, the desolated temple of the Church of Christ was raised up in Scotland two hundred years ago. Zion “looked forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”
“How fair the daughter of Jerusalem then?
How gloriously from Zion hill she looked,
Clothed with the sun, and in her train the moon,
And on her head a coronet of stars;
And girdling round her waist, with heavenly grace,
The bow of mercy bright, and in her hand
Emmanuel’s cross, her sceptre and her hope.”
“Walk about Zion and go round,
The high towers thereof tell;
Consider ye her palaces,
And mark her bulwarks well.”
But the Church of Christ was not to be left long in the peaceful possession of the rights and liberties which she had succeeded in achieving. The restoration of Charles Stuart in 1660 was the signal for an outburst of Erastian and Prelatic fury which lasted without intermission for a period of nearly thirty years. A determined tyrannical attempt was made to raze even to its foundations the Reformed Protestant Presbyterian Covenanted Church of Scotland. The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts was to be a vineyard of red wine. The king is resolved to reduce the Church to subjection to his absolute will—overturning her liberties and dethroning her King. The question in contention was this—Shall King Charles reign in the house of King Jesus; or shall King Jesus reign in His own house? The call to battle sounded: Who is on the Lord’s side? Who? A devoted band of Covenanters fearlessly responded, “Thine are we, David; and on Thy side, thou Son of Jesse.” King Charles, supported by the whole civil power, said, “I shall reign in Christ’s house.” “Nay,” said the Covenanters, “thou shalt not, neither shall any arm of flesh; but King Jesus shall reign in His own house.” And then
“Their blood about Jerusalem
Like water they did shed,
And there was none to bury them
When they were slain and dead.”
“For these are they that Jacob have
And they his habitation
Have caused waste to lie.”
By the standard that had been erected, God’s faithful servants stood; stood with their faces to the foe; stood without flinching; stood to be hewn down even to the last man. They stood for the Supreme Authority of the Holy Scriptures; for the Exclusive Headship of the Lord Jesus over the Church; for the Church’s independent spiritual jurisdiction and power; for the Divine right of Presbytery; for the purity of worship in the Church and the Church’s freedom from all unauthorized rites and ceremonies. They stood for every pin of the tabernacle, for every item of truth to which they had attained. The bush burned with fire, but the bush was not consumed. The “course of the ship of glory was traced by the white sheen of sufferings left on the sea of time.” The persecuted did hang their harps on the willows and wept, as they thought on Zion—tears now as they cease from their former joys. On one occasion, as their persecutors, hunting for them, approached a place of concealment, they heard the voice of prayer borne out upon the breeze, the burden of the hearts of the afflicted finding expression in the Old Testament prayer—“O Lord, Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness; Jerusalem is a desolation: behold, we beseech Thee, visit Zion in Thy mercy bring her out of the deep waters.” Assuredly it was “Thy right hand and Thine arm and the light of Thy countenance” sustained and cheered them “because Thou hadst a favour unto them.”
“Whose faith follow.” Let us embrace those doctrines affecting the Church’s existence, privileges, and prosperity, for which the martyrs suffered, and let us imitate their fidelity to the high attainments of a preceding period. The great Scriptural doctrines for which they were honoured to contend and which constituted the Church’s glory, are still more or less lightly esteemed by even many professing Christians and ecclesiastical denominations. The past two hundred years have not witnessed so daring an assault as have the present times upon the infallible truth and supreme authority of the Scriptures—this daring assault too being made within churches reputedly orthodox, and by men who have subscribed the Westminster Standards, and have never repudiated that subscription. Many have discovered a new standard of theology and religion in this enlightened century. This new standard is nothing less than the “human” or “Christian consclousness”—a standard sufficiently elastic for a loose generation, and by which every man becomes a standard and law unto himself. A wave of Biblical criticism, very unlike the wave that came from Geneva in the days of Luther, has passed from the Continent to this land, and some men of theological standing are being whirled within its eddies. The theology of Naturalism and Rationalism is taking the place of the theology of Revelation—the only true theology. A blow at the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures is a blow at the foundation. Arising out of this, that central doctrine of the Gospel of Salvation—the substitution of Christ for sinners—is ignored or denied by not a few prominent leaders in some of the evangelical Churches, and Arminianism is making rapid strides to popularity. Dishonour is done to the royal prerogative of Christ as Zion’s King by those Churches that appeal to or base their claim of rights upon the Revolution Settlement—a Settlement that proceeded upon Erastian principles, and left many of the attainments for which the martyrs suffered in the oblivion to which the Stuarts had consigned them. This dishonour is intensified by the appeal of the same Churches to the Act of Union, by which provision was made for the national support of that Prelacy against which the Covenanters fought, and fighting fell. The doctrine of Christ’s Exclusive Headship over His own Church, and of the freedom of the Church under her exclusive Head, requires to be vindicated and testified for against all modern departures therefrom. There is need to maintain and propagate the doctrine of the Divine right of the Presbyterian form of Church government, for at the present time only two of the Churches—and these among the smallest—hold this doctrine in all its Scriptural completeness. There is need to maintain the high scriptural doctrine concerning the modes of worship in the Church, that no rite or ceremony is to be introduced into the forms of worship for which an express prescription, direct or indirect, cannot be produced from God’s Own Word. The additions to the Church’s worship of forms of human invention, and called for in order to the gratification of mere religious fashion, constitute one of the saddest signs of the present time. “As though God had been defective,” as Charnock writes with reference to such innovators, “in providing for His own honour in His institutions, and modeling His own service, but stood in need of our directions and the caprichios of our brains. In this they do not seem to climb above God, yet they set themselves on the throne of God, and would grasp one end of His sceptre in their own hands. They do not attempt to take the crown from God’s head but discover a bold ambition to shuffle their hairy scalps under it, and wear part of it upon their own.” By the unflinching maintenance and profession of these doctrines, then, we are to prove ourselves the legitimate descendants of Scotland’s Covenanted Martyrs. This duty may draw down upon us reproach and shame, but, as the doctrines are Scriptural, the shame, like that of the martyrs, is transformed into glory. These doctrines are not now popular nor fashionable; still they are in advance of this age and prevailing ecclesiastical opinions, and they shall be popular and fashionable in the Church everywhere when “God shall help her, and that at the breaking of the morning.” They shall have a resurrection with power, when Zion shall be set upon the mountains, and when the glory of her King shall array her. They shall be triumphant when a whole banner for the truth shall wave upon the battlements of the Millennial Church of Jesus. “O thou afflicted, tossed with the tempest, and not comforted; behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and thy foundations with sapphires; I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.”
“When Zion by the Mighty Lord,
Built up again shall be,
In glory then and majesty,
To men appear shall He.”
III.—SCOTLAND’S COVENANTED MARTYRS WERE PATRIOTS OF DISTINGUISHED LOYALTY.
They were so because “Thou hadst a favour unto them.” Let us imitate their distinguished loyalty.
We meet to-day to commemorate those who refused to acknowledge or swear allegiance to the king that ruled them—to commemorate those who died as rebels at the hands of the State; and the claim now put forward on their behalf is that they were patriots of pre-eminent loyalty. How can this be? Ah! as the scar upon the wounded soldier who had been fighting for the liberties of his native land against a ruthless invader is pointed to as a mark of honour, so this scar of “rebellion” upon those who were slain in fighting the battles of the Lord of Hosts is a mark of the noblest valour—a badge of everlasting fame. Were the three Hebrews unpatriotic when they refused to bow before the image set up by Nebuchadnezzar on the plain of Dura! Were the Apostles unpatriotic though they did teach things contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there was “another King, one Jesus?” Was Jesus unpatriotic though charged with being a mover of sedition, and condemned to be crucified because His claims were irreconcilable with the claims of Caesar? Nay, verily. True patriotism, Christian patriotism, may require of subjects the most resolute opposition to the claims of their sovereign and the civil constitutions and principles of administration under which they live. True patriotism may even demand of the people the duty of removing their sovereign from the throne—the highest patriotism being displayed in the very act of removal. This honour had the Scottish martyrs of two centuries ago. They could not and would not acknowledge the authority of a king who was bent upon the complete subversion of the Christian constitution which the nation had framed for itself; who claimed the right to interfere with the Church in the exercise of her rights, and make her the abject slave of his own absolute will; and who used his authority by the rack, the gibbet, and the stake, to extinguish every spark of liberty in his subjects, and compel them to render obedience to his tyrannical demands. While many were found to flatter their royal master and play the part of cowardly sycophants, the Covenanters could not see the best liberties of the land crushed out, nor the royal prerogatives of King Jesus blasphemed, and fearlessly they repudiated the authority and sought the dethronement of the royal tyrant. Patriots they, stern and unbending, when, patriotism forgotten, the many became the fawning minions of a lawless sovereign.
“Their names shall nerve a patriot’s hand,
Upraised to save a sinking land;
And piety shall learn to burn,
With holier transports o’er their urn.”
In the Scriptures the Reformers and Martyrs found the doctrine of the Headship of Christ over the nations. Christ was “King of kings, and Lord of lords;” He was the “Governor among the nations;” He was “Head over all things to the Church, which is His body;” He was exalted and made Head over all “principalities, and power, and might, and dominion.” And they found many exhortations addressed to kings and their nations to serve Christ and His Church; denunciations of the wrath of the King of nations if these exhortations should be despised, and promises of a time to come when nations should assemble to serve the Lord. In fact, these two doctrines—Christ’s Headship over the Church, and His Headship over the Nations—were the two massive pillars upon which was built up the whole ecclesiastical and political structure of the Covenanted Reformation. These two doctrines our fathers comprehended under the phrase—the Supremacy of Christ; and under one designation they emblazoned both on their banner:—“For Christ’s Crown.” In Church and State, their one great aim was “Let King Jesus reign.” They were quite as much under obligation to accept, apply, and contend for the one as for the other—for the Headship of Christ over the nation, and the duty of the nation to their King, as for the Headship of Christ over the Church, and the duty of the Church to her King. Both doctrines they found in the Word of God, and it was at their everlasting peril if they shut either of the doctrines out of their heart, or narrowed their profession so as to exclude them. Like honest, god-fearing men, they unhesitatingly embraced both, and boldly endeavoured to carry both out to all their legitimate issues. Our Covenanted fathers held a high view of magistracy. They did not believe that rulers were to be the mere representatives of the people, and that in their legislation they should consult only, and be guided by, the people’s will. That notion of magistracy, a popular one just now, would bring it down to a low level indeed, and deprive the ruler of that independence and dignity that he ought to display in the fulfilment of his office. To the ruler, the voice of the people is not to be the voice of God. In his high station, the ruler is to be guided by the will of God, and he is to use the extensive influences with which his very office invests him, to lead the people he represents to the throne of the great Potentate whose subject the ruler himself is. Nor did our fathers for a moment imagine that any king of earth should entertain the slightest jealousy toward the King of kings. In their view, there was not the most remote approach to antagonism between the claims of the Governor among the nations, and the lawful claims and rights of any sovereign in the world. Nay, there was a grand harmony between the claims of both. The recognition of the claims of Christ by any king would cause his throne to rest on immovable foundations, and diffuse peace and prosperity throughout the nation he ruled. Such a king would not lower his royal dignity, but exalt it; he would not degrade his throne but encircle it with an amaranthine crown of glory. And the kingdom ruled, as wrote a God-serving king, by the spirit of “Inspiration,” would be “as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, a morning without clouds, and as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after the rain.”
Those titles attributed in Scripture to Christ as the Head of the Nations were not regarded by the Reformers as mere empty sounds. They felt that these titles set forth, in part, Christ’s royal prerogatives and claims, and that kings and their kingdoms should hear and obey. From those titles they justly drew such inferences as these:—That kings and nations, in their official and national character, should recognize by formal declarations the great Sovereign, King Jesus, that reigned over them; that they should frame their constitutions and enact their laws in obedience to that Sovereign, taking His Word as their great Statute Book; that those only should be chosen to rule in a Christian nation who were fearers of God, and resolved in their office of rule to honour Messiah, and that the avowed enemies of God and His Anointed should be excluded from the throne and from all legislative power; that kings should exert their high authority for the removal of all impediments to the progress of Christianity, and should contribute toward the extension of the Church of Christ in the world. While the State should reserve to itself its own independent civil jurisdiction and the Church her own independent spiritual jurisdiction, yet both powers should co-operate for their mutual benefit, and should strengthen one another’s hands—the one in subjection to Christ’s Headship over the Nations, and the other in subjection to Christ’s Headship over the Church—for the establishment, by the willing recognition of the whole nation, individually and collectively, of the universal Mediatorial Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Reformers and Martyrs were not Erastians, for they were ever struggling against the invasions of royalty upon the Church’s liberties. Neither were they Voluntaries, for there was not one of them that ever broached the modern error that the “State has nothing to do with religion, and religion nothing to do with the State;” or, as Principal Cunningham defines it, that “the only relation that ought to subsist between Church and State—between the civil government and religion—is that of entire separation.” If Voluntaryism be right, then all these titles of Christ mean nothing, and all the exhortations to kings and nations in Scripture with respect to Christ and His cause and Church are mere sounds. If Voluntaryism be right, then one of the principalities and powers of the earth is set loose from the dominion of the Mediator, Christ is not universal Monarch, but is shorn of part of his Mediatorial glory. While the Reformers studiously avoided the Scylla of Erastianism, they no less carefully steered clear of the Charybdis of Voluntaryism. They laboured, indeed, to liberate religion from State patronage and control, but they never for a moment dreamt of liberating the State from the control of the enthroned Messiah, and of yielding up the nation to au Atheistic license. Had they not done the latter they would have been Erastians of the Erastians; for what is Voluntaryism but an Erastianism of the most Christless kind? Does not Voluntaryism claim to control religion out of all national action and offices? Does it not compel Christ to stand outside the National School—to stand outside the Halls of Legislature—to stand away from the Throne and Constitution? It will not grant Christ the universal right He claims to rule over all; nor Christianity the unlimited liberty it is infinitely worthy to receive. And is that not an Erastianism of the deepest dye? If Voluntaryism be right, then the whole Covenanted Reformation in one of its principal aspects was a grand mistake; for, that the king and the nation, as such, espoused it, was one of its central excellencies. Never did Scotland, never did these three nations behave themselves more princely than when they entered into covenants with the God of nations; than when, by those national deeds, they surrendered themselves to God. It was “the day of the Redeemer’s strength, when the princes of the people assembled to give themselves willingly to the Prince of the kings of the earth.” These lands were Hepzibah and Beulah, the Lord’s Delight, and married to Him in an everlasting covenant. “God hath laid engagements on Scotland,” said the Marquis of Argyle on the scaffold, “we are tied by covenants to religion and reformation; those who were then unborn are yet engaged, and it passeth the power of all the magistrates under heaven to absolve from the oath of God.” When then the nation entered into those covenants, the step was a public, practical, national exhibition of the Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over the nations. Of that covenanted nation then it might have been said, “Open ye the gates that the righteous nation that keepeth the truth may enter in.”
Ere twelve years had passed, however, that storm burst that was to lay in ruins the whole structure of a Covenanted Reformation. Soon after the restoration of Charles to the throne, it became too apparent that with axes and hammers the carved work of the Reformation temple would be broken down. The drunken Parliament of Middleton and the Royalists—fit authors of a deed so godless—initiated the crusade by the passing of the Act Rescissory—rescinding the Covenants, and pronouncing unlawful and treasonable these and other national deeds in favour of the Reformation. And, immediately thereafter, an absolute supremacy, both ecclesiastical and civil, was vested in the Sovereign. Before the baseless supremacy of Charles Stuart, the everlasting supremacy of King Jesus must go out in darkness! Against all who refuse to acknowledge the former, there goes forth the decree of extermination. Never did a Persian ruler with his drunken Haman, nor a lawless monarch of Babylon issue fouler decrees, or better act the despot. Sharp, and Clavers, and Lagg, and Crichton lead, from time to time, in the execution of the bloody behests of their royal master. What will the Covenanters do now? Yield to the supremacy of King Charles, and let the supremacy of King Jesus go? Turn back now when the blast of the trumpet has been blown for the battle? Never! They are overwhelmed with sorrow as they contemplate this assault of tyrants upon the honour of their God and the liberties of their land; but yield they cannot, yield they will not. To the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty! Like Israel when Joshua addressed them reminding them of the difficulties of fidelity to their God, so said they, “Nay, but we will serve the Lord.” And
“Diocletian’s fiery sword
Work’d busy as the lightning.”
The vales redoubled to the hills,
And they to heaven.”
The Covenanters had not learned the doctrine of the Divine right of kings, or of passive obedience. They could not lay their consciences at the feet of even the most exalted prince on earth. Great interests were at stake, and faithless guardians of them they could not be. The nation’s rulers had thrown off and cast out the Covenanted Constitution and Covenants, with the whole work of Reformation, and with these this devoted band were willing to go—to go even to prison and to death. With Christ and His cause and an unfettered conscience, in the moorland, in thc cave, on the scaffold, they had greater peace and joy than any of their enemies, however high in royal favour. Where was liberty thong. Where was patriotism? With the persecutors or with the persecuted? With the murderers or with the murdered? Liberty and patriotism beat high in the breasts of the outcast, the wanderers, the tortured, the slain: they were to be found there—there only—there in their heavenly beauty and strength.
“They first on earth, while all the morning stars
Looked on spectators from the heavenly skies,
Proclaimed, Resistance is a right Divine;
And, to the beating of their hearts, in shouts,
Answered the echoes of posterity.”
Long did they bear, perhaps too long, with their persecutors before adopting aggressive measures of resistance. After twenty years of endurance, the time came when a bold stroke must be made for the overthrow of tyranny and the restoration of liberty. On the 22nd of June, 1680, about this very time two hundred years ago, Richard Cameron, in company with a number of fellow patriots, rode into the burgh of Sanquhar, and nailed up his famous Declaration to the Sanquhar Cross. James Stuart was declared to have forfeited the crown, and open war was proclaimed against him—
“Men called it rash, perhaps it was a crime;
His deed flashed out God’s will an hour before the time.”
In a few years afterwards the bloody House of Stuart was hurled from the throne, and the sword of persecution was laid to rest in its scabbard. “The just shall be in everlasting remembrance; but the memory of the wicked shall rot.”
Although the Revolution Settlement possessed several excellencies, it was matter of lamentation that it left unrestored much of the Covenanted work of Reformation. It fell far short of conceding and “settling” all that the martyrs so nobly contended for. The Act Rescissory was allowed to remain untouched in the Statute Book, and the nation’s Solemn Covenants were wholly ignored. That Revolution Settlement, moreover, proceeded upon the principle of political expediency—the will of the people, for it granted Presbytery to Scotland, as it was “agreeable to the inclinations of the people.” It proceeded upon religious equality to the extent of establishing one form of church government in this kingdom and a different form in the sister kingdoms—this latter a form which the martyrs constantly resisted. It was Erastian, for by it the Standards of the Revolution Church were appointed for her before a single Assembly was called, and the meetings of her Assemblies were subsequently, in the Erastian spirit of that Settlement, interfered with and controlled. It was, in fine, a Settlement that did not take for its guide the supreme authority of the Bible; that did not conserve the Headship of Christ over the Church and Nation; that did not defend Presbyterianism as of Divine origin; and that in various other respects fell far below the platform of the Scriptural attainments of the Church and State in their purest times. The faithful followers of Cargill, Cameron, and Renwick were overwhelmed with sorrow when they beheld the crushing of the bright hopes they had entertained. Bitter, indeed, was their disappointment. Their martyred sires and they had marched under the banner for that whole Covenanted work—braving the wrath of their keenest foes, and how could they desert it now that peace had returned to bless and liberty was so plentiful in the land? They could not, they dare not; and the whole history of the Revolution Church since, as well as of the nation, justifies the position of separation from Church and State our Covenanting fathers then felt compelled to assume. “The Lord our God will we serve,” said they, “and His voice will we obey.”
A few years after the Revolution Settlement came the Act of Union between Scotland and England, one of the “fundamental and essential conditions” of which was that the Church of England should be left undisturbed, and that all the Acts for her establishment and for the preservation of her doctrine, worship, discipline, and government should “remain and be in full force for ever.” Ah! the testimony uttered by every Scottish martyr on the scaffold, and the testimony on every martyr’s monument now throughout the breadth of the land, cries out upon that Act as a surrender of a Reformation heritage and a dread act of apostacy from Scotland’s covenanted King.
To that Revolution Settlement and Act of Union we trace many of the evils with which Britain is at present afflicted—evils against which we lift our voice, not, we trust, because we love the nation less, but because we love Christ more. Our national constitution and national administration to a large extent ignore, and are in conflict with, the claims of the Lord’s Anointed. There is still in the Constitution that Act of Uniformity which occasioned the ever memorable exodus of the Puritans from the Church of England—an Act which remains in all its tyrannical force, but is restrained meanwhile by an Act of Toleration. In the British Constitution there is an Erastianism by which the Church of England is as helpless for reform, without the aid of the Sovereign and Privy Council and Parliament, as is the Church of Rome without the interference of infallibility. Prelacy is in the Constitution, and the nation is bound to maintain it “inviolable for ever”—that Prelacy in all its unscriptural elements which the three nations bound themselves to extirpate. The Liturgy of the Church of England is in the Constitution—a Liturgy which affords protection for the apostles of the Oxford heresy, and contains the dogmas of the Papacy in their germ. And it is this Liturgy and Prelacy and Erastianism that are included in the popular clamour for the maintenance of the “Protestant Reformed Religion as by law established.” The Prelatic Church of England receives about six millions annually from the national exchequer, while it enjoys revenues and property, granted by the nation, which represent a capitalized sum of about two hundred millions. The Papacy is in the Constitution, warmly fostered and richly endowed. From the national funds it draws in various ways, in the course of a year, one million of pounds. To such an extent does the British nation support that system which God in His Word has doomed to destruction by the breath of His mouth and the brightness of His coming. “And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded unto death, and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast.” The British Constitution and the British nation admit to the high office of legislators those who are the avowed enemies of the Lord and His Anointed—Secularists, whose State theory is blank Atheism; Roman Catholics, who are idolaters and profane the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary; Unitarians, who deny the Deity of our Lord; and Jews, who hold that Jesus was an impostor—all are eligible to rule this Christian nation—do actually now [ca. 1880] sit in the House of Commons.  Two centuries ago, the foundations of political liberties were laid by the exclusion from rule of the avowed enemies of God and the Christian religion. Now, it seems, these are as much entitled to rule, and as well qualified to rule aright, as the firmest believers in God and His Word; and this is cried up as an evidence of the growing charity and greater enlightenment of this century! “Grey hairs are here and there upon us, and we know it not.” In all these respects the British nation is doing dishonour to the King of nations. “They have set up kings, but not by Me; they made them princes, and I knew it not.”
And, worse than all, an Ecclesiastical Supremacy is vested in the British Crown. Over the Church of England, the Sovereign is Supreme Governor and Head; the royal prerogative of Christ is invaded; the Church’s independent jurisdiction is blotted out. Queen Victoria is perhaps the noblest queen, and is certainly one of the noblest sovereigns that has ever swayed the British sceptre; but still, never can we palliate the dishonour done the Church’s exclusive Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, by this assumption of an ecclesiastical supremacy. The guilt of this dishonour rests not so much upon the sovereign, who by solemn oath assumes this headship, as upon the nation which requires that coronation oath to be taken. This claim of ecclesiastical supremacy is in all respects, except in the matter of persecution to enforce it, the same as it was in the time of the Stuarts, two centuries ago. The headship of the present sovereign is in no essential respect different from what it was when Henry the Eighth, quarrelling with Rome, took it from the head of the Supreme Pontiff, and placed it upon his own. Our fathers could not suffer any sovereign to bear the title, Head of the Church. Whether written on the mitre of the priest or on the diadem of the sovereign, they denounced it as one of the names of blasphemy. “This is the magistracy I have rejected,” said Donald Cargill at his execution, “that which was invested with Christ’s power. And seeing this power taken from Christ, which is His glory, made the essential of the crown, it was as if I had seen one wearing my husband’s garments after he had killed him; and seeing it is made the essential of the crown, there is no distinction we can make that can free the conscience of the acknowledger from being a partaker of this sacrilegious robbing of God.” “Own you the King,” said his accusers to John Nisbet, “in all matters civil and ecclesiastical, and to be Head of the Church?. . . . “I will acknowledge none,” was the reply, “to be the Head of the Church but Christ.” “I leave my testimony,” said James Renwick, the last of the martyr throng, as he stood on the scaffold, “against all usurpations made on Christ’s right, who is the Prince of the kings of the earth, who alone must bear the glory of ruling His own Kingdom, the Church.” Were these martyrs with us to-day, they would exert every effort to have this dishonour to Christ removed, or at least their beloved Covenanted Scotland delivered from being “partaker in this sacrilegious robbing of God.” This headship over the Church is, in the words of Blackstone, “an inherent prerogative of the crown.” To the maintenance of this “inherent prerogative,” every member of Parliament swears when he takes the oath of allegiance; and the oath of allegiance is, in the words of Majesty, “the safe-guard of the crown.” Thus it is that this usurpation on the rights of Christ is protected and maintained by all the power of the British Crown and nation. And scarce a voice lifted up throughout all Scotland in condemnation of the flagrant iniquity! While this iniquity, and the others already particularized, are not simply administrative but fundamental, not incidental but essential, not temporary but permanent! The millions quarrel about the respective policies of parties, while they forget these great moral questions that lie deeper far; and the parties devise and discuss methods for the removing of the eruptions on the surface, while they seem utterly oblivious of the fact that a powerful leprosy is doing its work at the core. “Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord? Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?”
Why speak ye not a word about bringing the King back? If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed. The liberties of the land are in danger, and it is time we should awake from our slumbers. Difficult is it to rid the many of their fancied security. They say, “Their mountain stands strong. Britain shall never be moved.” And they fold their hands and laugh at those who seek to arouse diem to repel the increasing assaults. True, no kingdom on earth enjoys greater advantages; in none are the rights of man more faithfully guarded, while the powers of sovereign and subject are limited and established by laws that have been settled into their place through the lapse and experiences of generations. But still, never was there a time within the last two hundred years when a more determined assault upon these rights and privileges was made than at present. And that which creates most alarm is the indifference to these assaults of the Christian subjects who ought to be most zealous and valiant defenders of the precious heritage that has been entrusted them, procured at the expense of their fathers’ blood. “The Gospel of the grace of God,” said Martin Luther, “is like a flying summer shower, it drops here and there and then passes on.” Let us beware lest these lands are receiving the latter drops of this shower of blessing, and lest already the shower is passing away. Other nations, as highly evangelized and as well established as we, have gone back in the roll of nations; ashes and dust hide their perished glories. Throughout lands once full of Bibles and privilege there now rises the minaret by the side of the mosque, from which goes forth ever the doleful proclamation, “There is no God but God, and Mahomet is His prophet.”
In this hour of our peril, our whole efforts should be directed to the restoration of the work of the Covenanted Reformation; this is the hope and safety of the nation. It was by the grand Scriptural principles in the maintenance and application of which the Covenanting struggle was waged that the foundations of our civil and religious liberties were laid. If those liberties are to be conserved and transmitted in their entirety to coming generations those great principles must he believed in and applied. Who could persuade themselves that the superstructure will stand when the foundations are being removed? The superstructure of our liberties will crumble to the ground if we tamper with the doctrinal foundations on which those liberties rest. Therefore let us gird ourselves to keep in their place what of the foundations are still secure, and let us gird ourselves for the work of restoring those foundation stones that have been vilely cast away. Bringing these nations to the feet of their anointed and everlasting King; bringing them back to their covenanted allegiance to their sovereign Lord—this is the great and honourable work which the God we serve imperatively demands at our hands. If now an extensive movement should commence for the accomplishment of this noble object, the memory of the martyrs and their patriotic struggle for liberty would receive an appropriate commemoration, and this two hundredth year after their martyrdom would be memorable in the history of the land. Our hope for this is not so much in the rulers in the State or the leaders in the Church, though we know that the Lord of Hosts holds in His hand the hearts of all, and can turn them at His sovereign pleasure; but our hope is in the people. Usually in the past the people have been the most powerful factor in reformation. In the Reformations in the times of Luther, and Knox, and Henderson, the people awoke from their lethargies and rose up in new life to carry on the work to its completion. Be up then and doing, we beseech you, and, by the help of Almighty God, we may yet succeed in driving the battle to the gate. The restoring of the ruined temple of the Covenanted Reformation, and thereby the effecting of a Third Reformation for Scotland,—this is the work of the present hour, the work of every true patriot, of every lover of the Church, of every lover of Christ’s crowns. “When Christ comes,” said Richard Cameron, “to raise up His own work in Scotland, He will not want men enough to do it.” May He come soon, then, to raise up His tabernacle that is fallen, and restore it from ruins, as in days of old! Awake! why sleepest Thou? Pluck Thy hand, even Thy right hand, out of Thy bosom. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, Most Mighty, and ride forth for the sake of truth, and meekness, and righteousness. Take to Thee Thy power and reign. Reign over Scotland, and over Ireland, and over England. Reign over Europe, and over Asia, and over Africa, and over America. Take the throne of every heart, and the throne of every household, and the throne of every community, and the throne of every church, and the throne of every nation, and the thrones of all worlds; and let every knee bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
“Thou shalt arise, and mercy yet
Thou to Mount Zion shalt extend;
Her time for favour which was set,
Behold! is now come to an end.”
“Thy saints take pleasure in her stones;
Her very dust to them is dear;
All heathen lands and kingly thrones
On earth Thy glorious name shall fear.”
And, when this sublime prophecy of Old Testament times shall have been fulfilled, there shall go up from the redeemed and emancipated millions of the broad earth, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, the triumphant ascription,—“Alleluia! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!”
 Since this was spoken, an avowed Atheist has been admitted to the House of Commons—the “narrow ledge of Theism” having been broken down by a Resolution of the House. There are at present in the Commons, among others, fifty-seven Roman Catholics, nineteen Unitarians, and five Jews.