James Renwick, Covenanter
One of the last of the martyred Scottish Covenanters was James Renwick (1662-1688). Imagine being hunted down, imprisoned, tortured and publicly executed in humiliating fashion, all for the choice of form of worship and for separation of Church and State. Here in the late 1600's by royal fiat all Christians were to acknowledge King as head of the Church and to submit to episcopalian structure and authority. This the Covenanters would not do. They would rather head to the open spaces to worship with their beloved banished pastors , and hail only Jesus as King of the Church.
The stories of adventure, struggle, secret "conventicles", betrayal and heroic rescue are many and fascinating. One very good read is "Fair Sunshine" by Jock Purves (Banner of Truth Trust)
Hear now some of the noble words written by Renwick in his jail cell the day before execution in Edinburgh on February 17, 1688:
"Now, my dear friends in precious Christ, I think I need not tell you that, as I have lived, so I die, in the same persuasion with the true reformed and covenanted Presbyterian Church of Scotland. I adhere to the testimony of the day, as it is held forth in our Informatory Vindication, and in the testimony against the present toleration; and that I own, and seal with my blood, all the precious truths, even the controverted truths, that I have taught. So I would exhort every one of you to make sure your personal reconciliation with God in Christ, for I fear many of you have that yet to do; and when you come where I am, to look pale death in the face, ye will not be a little shaken and terrified if ye have not laid hold on eternal life. I would exhort you to much diligence in the use of means; to be careful in keeping your societies; to be frequent and fervent in secret prayer; to read much the written Word of God, and to examine yourselves by it.
"Do not weary to maintain, in your places and stations, the present testimony; for when Christ goeth forth to defeat antichrist, with that name written on His vesture and on His thigh, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS, He will make it glorious in the earth. And if you can but transmit it to posterity, ye may count it a great generation work. But beware of the ministers that have accepted this toleration, and all others that bend that way; and follow them not, for the sun hath gone down on them. Do not fear that the Lord will cast off Scotland; for He will certainly return, and show Himself glorious in our land. But watch and pray, for He is bringing on a sad overthrowing stroke, which shall make many say that they have easily got through that have got a scaffold for Christ; and do not regard the sufferings of this present world, for they are not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed.
"I may say, to His praise, that I have found His cross sweet and lovely unto me; for I have had many joyful hours, and not a fearful thought since I came to prison. He hath strengthened me to outbrave man and outface death; and I am now longing for the joyful hour of my dissolution; and there is nothing in the world I am sorry to leave but you; but I go unto better company, and so I must take my leave of you all.
"Farewell beloved sufferers, and followers of the Lamb. Farewell Christian intimates. Farewell Christian and comfortable mother and sisters. Farewell sweet societies. Farewell desirable general meetings. Farewell night wanderings, cold and weariness for Christ. Farewell sweet Bible, and preaching of the Gospel. Farewell sun, moon, and stars, and all sublunary things. Farewell conflicts with a body of death. Welcome scaffold for precious Christ. Welcome heavenly Jerusalem. Welcome innumerable company of angels. Welcome General Assembly and Church of the first-born. Welcome, crown of glory, white robes, and song of Moses and the Lamb. And, above all, welcome, O thou blessed Trinity and One God! O Eternal One, I commit my soul into Thy eternal rest!"