CLOUD OF WITNESSES
ROYAL PREROGATIVES OF JESUS CHRIST:
THE LAST SPEECHES AND TESTIMONIES
WHO HAVE SUFFERED FOR THE TRUTH IN SCOTLAND.
SINCE THE YEAR 1680.
JAMES SKENE was connected with the best families in Aberdeenshire; his brother's estate of Skene being in the parish of that name, about ten miles to the west of Aberdeen. His association with Richard Cameron is somewhat remarkable, as he came from a county, the stronghold of prelatic principles in the North, as is manifest from the strong expressions in his letters to Mr. William Alexander and other of his friends. He was apprehended on the charge of being a hearer of Donald Cargill, at a time when he had no idea that even his name was known as one attached to the persecuted cause. Nothing could be brought against him, save what he himself said. He was sentenced to be hanged on the 24th November. He obtained a respite for eight days, but at its expiry was hanged at the Market Cross of Edinburgh, at the same time with John Potter and Archibald Stewart, whose testimonies follow.
Skene's testimony against the tyranny and illegal character of many of the acts of the Government is expressed in stronger language than almost any other in the volume. The compilers of the "Cloud," in a note, guard against taking his expressions in a wrong sense. Wodrow finds much fault with the compilers for publishing Skene's testimony at all; he fears lest its strong language may lead Papists and Prelatists to bespatter the Protestant religion and Presbyterians in general. But no one who now dispassionately reads Wodrow's own history will entertain such thoughts. Indeed the marvel is, that the sufferers were able to restrain their just indignation, and speak so calmly as they did.
The Hamilton Declaration, noticed by Skene, and repeatedly referred to throughout the volume, was one of the papers issued between the battle of Drumclog and that of Bothwell Bridge. It stated the reasons for continuing in arms. (1.) The defence of the Protestant religion, as established by law and sworn to by all ranks in the Covenants, and more particularly the defending and maintaining the kingly authority of our Lord Jesus Christ over His church. (2.) The preserving and defending the king's majesty's person and authority in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdom. (3.) The obtaining a free and unlimited Parliament, and a free General Assembly. The second of the above reasons gave offence to many, who believed it worse than useless to speak of defending the king's authority, when he had during a long course of years given so many proofs of his desire to take away liberty, and to rule as an irresponsible monarch.
Of the members of the Privy Council mentioned by James Skene as present at his examination, "York" was the Duke of York, afterwards James VII. of Scotland. Though a Papist, he regularly attended the examinations of the persecuted Presbyterians. When any one was to be struck in the Boots, it had to be done in the presence of the Council. Burnet says: "Upon that occasion, almost all run away. The sight is so dreadful, that without an order restraining such a number to stay, the board would be forsaken. But the Duke was so far from withdrawing, that he looked on all the while with an unmoved indifference, and with an attention as if he had been to look on some curious experiment. This gave a terrible idea of him to all that observed it, as of a man that had no bowels nor humanity in him."
"Rothes" was the Duke of Rothes, and Lord Chancellor.
"Burnet" was Alexander Burnet, Bishop of Glasgow. He counselled the hanging of all the prisoners taken at Pentland, if they would not renounce the Covenant. He died in 1684.
"Paterson" was John Paterson, Bishop of Edinburgh; translated from the diocese of Galloway in 1679. In 1687, he was appointed Archbishop of Glasgow. The Revolution deprived him of his dignities. He died at Edinburgh in 1708. If the pamphleteers of that age are to be believed, his moral character was not of a high order.
"The Advocate" was Sir George M'Kenzie of Rosehaugh; a man remarkable for his literary attainments, and occupying an honourable place among the writers of his age; but, as a public prosecutor, he was merciless. His remains lie in the Greyfriars Churchyard, and tradition still points out his tomb as that of "bloody M'Kenzie."
"Clerk Paterson" was Sir William Paterson, made clerk to the Privy Council in 1679.
"Linlithgow" was the Earl of Linlithgow; who was general over the royal troops previous to Bothwell Bridge, until the chief command was assigned by the king to the Duke of Monmouth.
"Hatton" was Sir Charles Maitland, Lord Hatton, a younger brother of the Duke of Lauderdale. He was Master-general of the Mint, and for some time was Lord Justice-Clerk. Shortly after Skene's execution the Duke of Lauderdale died, August 24, 1682, and in the following October Sir Charles Maitland became Earl of Lauderdale. Being accused of malversation in his management of the Mint, he was found guilty, and, in addition to being heavily fined, was deprived of all his offices. With him fell the power of the Maitlands.
Skene mentions that he was accompanied to prison by Archibald Stewart and John Sproul. Stewart's testimony follows Mr. Skene's. John Sproul was an apothecary in Glasgow. He was twice put to the torture in the Boots; and, having been fined £500 sterling, was afterwards confined for six years in the Bass Rock. He survived the Revolution, and received from his friends the compellation of "Bass John Sproul," whereof, says Wodrow, he needs not to be ashamed.
Mr. M'Ward, mentioned by Skene, was the well-known amanuensis of Samuel Rutherford while at the Westminster Assembly; he succeeded Andrew Gray in Glasgow. In 1661 he was charged with treasonable preaching, and banished the kingdom. He went to Utrecht, and then to Rotterdam, where he died December 1681. His life is in the "Scots Worthies." The letter referred to is in "Wodrow."ED.]
THE LAST TESTIMONY
Mr. JAMES SKENE,
Brother to the Laird of Skene,
Who suffered at Edinburgh, December 1, 1680.His Interrogations and Answers before the Privy Council, related by himself in a letter to his Brother:"DEAR BILLIE [i.e., BROTHER, from same root as the German, 'billig' equal, fair],To satisfy your desire, I send you this line to let you know, that when I came before the Council (York and Rothes being there, two Bishops, viz., Burnet and Paterson, the Advocate, Clerk Paterson, Linlithgow, and many more, sitters and standers, Dalziel, the General, being porter, walking proudly up and down, not as a servant), none was admitted to come in with me. I saluted them all civilly, and kept off my hat, because they kept off. that they might not say that I was a Quaker.
"Rothes asked me, Was I at Bothwell or Airsmoss? I answered, I was at home in the north both these times.
"They asked, If I did own Sanquhar Declaration and the Testimony at Rutherglen? I told them, I did own them both.
"He asked, Did I own the king's authority? I said, in so far as it was against the Covenant and interest of Christ, I disowned it.
"He asked me, Thought I it not a sinful murder the killing of the Arch-prelate [James Sharp]? I said, I thought it was their duty to kill him when God gave them opportunity; for he had been the author of much bloodshed.
"They asked me, Why I carried arms? I told them it was for self-defence, and the defence of the Gospel.
"They asked me, Why I poisoned my ball? I told them I wished none of them to recover whom I shot.
"He asked me, Why I carried a durk? I told them they might ask Mr. George Mackenzie, if it was not our country fashion; and he presently told the Chancellor that it was so.
"They asked if I knew Cargill? I said it was my comfort I knew him. Then they reproached him, and me for conversing with him. I said, I bless God, He gave me sweet peace in it.
"They asked, Would I kill the soldiers, being the king's? I said it was my duty, if I could, when they persecuted God's people.
"They asked, If I would kill any of them? I said they were all stated [declared] enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ, and, by the Declaration at Sanquhar, I counted them my enemies.
"They asked, If I would think it my duty to kill the King? I said, he had stated himself an enemy to God's interest, and there was war declared against him. I said, the Covenant made with God was the glory of Scotland, though they had unthankfully counted it their shame. And in direct terms I said to the Chancellor, 'Sir, I have a parchment at home wherein your father's name is, and you are bound by that as well as I.'
"They asked, Why I called the Chancellor 'Sir.' I said, 'Sir' was a title for a king, and it might serve him.
"The Chancellor asked, If I knew his Royal Highness? I said I never saw such a person.
"York looks out by [i.e., from where he was], for he sat in the shadow of Bishop Burnet, and said, Why did I wish the king so ill? I told, I wished no ill to any, but as they were in opposition to God, I wished them brought down. And he spoke no more.
"The Chancellor said, Would I not adhere to the Acts of Parliament of this kingdom? I said, I would not own any of them which were in opposition to God and His Covenant.
"Mr. Mackenzie said, 'If the king were riding by in coach, would ye think it no sin to kill him?' I said, by the Sanquhar Declaration, there was war declared against him, 'and so he needed not put that in question.
"So Mr. Mackenzie came out by to the bar, and said, 'I know your relations and mine are sib, [i.e., connected by blood] be ingenuous in all that is demanded of you, and I will save you from torture.'
"I said, 'Sir, I know you, and ye know me and my relations. I have been as free and ingenuous as I could imagine, because I reckon it my credit and my glory to give a full and free confession for my blessed Lord's interest that is reproached and borne down.'
"They asked me, where I saw Cargill last? I said, I met with him last in the West Bow, to my comfort.
"They asked me, Who were owners of the house ? I said, I really could not tell them; I knew them not.
"They said, Would I know the house? I said, Yes.
"They said, Would I show it to some whom they would send with me? I told them I was free in what concerned myself; but to hurt any else, I could not mar my peace with God; but if they were advertised to go out of the house, I should show it them.
"Then they desired me to go my ways. The General [Dalziel] opened the door, and rounded [whispered] in my ear, 'Ye must go down with some soldiers, and show them that house.' I said, 'I will not do it to hurt any: these indwellers must be advertised to flee the house first.'
"Then I was ordered to the guard, which was of Linlithgow's soldiers, which took me, and walked (after Archibald Stewart and John Sproul, who were examined) to the Tron; and back to the Council house of the town, I being alone, and only six soldiers with me. I took me to prayer, and was comforted; and then sent money for meat and drink: and then worshipped in public with the soldiers. At night, a person from J, kindly wakened me, and brought me bread and ale and sugar, and some confected caraway. After that I was carried to a committee, where were present the Chancellor, Hatton, Paterson, Justice-Clerk, Wigtown, and Linlithgow; and they showed me two letters of mine to Mrs. Simpson, wherein I owned the Declaration at Sanquhar, and told I would do much to persuade many that it was just, from Mr. M'Ward's advice that was given to the prisoners. I owned the letters, and told them I did what I could to dissuade professors from paying them cess, which they ordered for bearing down the Gospel: at which they laughed.
"The Chancellor said, Why did I not call him Lord? I told him, were he for Christ's interest, I would honour him. Then he said, he cared not for my honour; but he would have me to know he was Chancellor. I said, I knew that. He said I was not a Scotsman but a Scots-beast. At which Wigtown gloomed [frowned] at him, and he laughed. He then rounded [whispered] to me, that he would be my friend, would I be ingenuous. I told him, I wished him no ill.
"They asked me, What Mr. William Alexander was it, that I wrote of? I said that Mr. Paterson the bishop, and Mr. Ross, at Glasgow, knew him, and persecuted him unjustly. I then related to them how it was. Paterson said, I told that which I knew not to be truth; he pitied me. He said to the Chancellor, Certainly I forgot to write.
"I was before the Justiciary Court, where my confession was read, and after I read it again, and told them I thought it my honour to subscribe to it. I assented to all that was recorded by the clerk; I owned it, and counted it my honour so to do. The Justice-Clerk Hatton's son being there, said he pitied me, I being a gentleman; he knew my friends. I said, were I an Earl's son I would esteem it my honour. I desired them to canvass [consider] well what they did, for they would be panneled before God for it. He said I might prepare for another world. I said, I hoped the Lord would prepare me.
"Now, dear Billie, I have given you an account of the truth, as I confusedly remember; but I entreat you, take all the praise you give me, and put it upon my Lord, for I am but a poor, simple, sinful worm. It is from Him I had this courage.
"Wigtown and the Justice-Clerk desired me to show them that house, saying, that I was free enough in all except that; and if I were obstinate, I might belike get the Boots. I said, let them do with me what they pleased; in what concerned myself I was free; but to do hurt to others I would not, to bring them under their wrath. I would not mar my peace with God so far.
"The General said, He would parole [engage] to me, that the indwellers of the house should be advertised. I said, I would not have his parole.
"The Chancellor, boasted [threatened] me for denying his parole. I said to the Chancellor, I was a gentleman that had blood relation to his relations, the Earl of Mar's mother and I being sister-bairns [cousins]. He said, He was sorry I was so related. I said, The cause I was there owning honoured me; and I would it befel my friends. So this I hope; you will not critically reflect on my confused writing, since I am in haste; ye know, it may be, I may be cited before these bloody men this forenoon. I will not order for my funeral, till I know my sentence. I may possibly not be allowed a burial. My Lord comforts me, and I leave all on Him to bear me through this storm, through the valley and shadow of death.
"Dear Billie, bid all ye see of our serious friends help me with their prayers, that I may be helped of the Lord to be faithful unto the death, and that He will give me the faith of assurance, that I shall enjoy my Lord's love through all eternity. The want of this clouds me much, I am so unworthy a wretch. I am,
"Dear Billie, your unworthy friend, and loving Brother, "JAMES SKENE.""From my Lord Jesus, His house, which He has made a sweet palace, wherein He shows me His wonderful free love; the close prison above the Iron House, in the high Tolbooth of Edinburgh, November 1680.
"P.S.I told the Chancellor the cause was just, whereby the king and others were excommunicate [at the Torwood]; though I was not there, yet I adhered to it.
Mr. JAMES SKENE:"To all professors in the shire of Aberdeen; especially Mr. William Alexander, Mr. William Mitchell, and Mr. John Watson, my dear acquaintances. Being the last Testimony for the interest of Christ from James Skene, now in close prison for Christ's interest, in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh.""DEAR FRIENDS,The Lord having dealt so graciously with me in wonderful free love, as to bring me to the love of Himself, His truth, and despised interest, as that He engaged me in a particular covenant with Himself, which, by His honouring me to make me a prisoner to evil men, for His despised interest, He has evidently confirmed to me, that He accepted of my bargain with Himself, when most unworthy and wretched; though many times by reason of a prevailing body of sin and death, I provoked Him to cast [break] the bargain; yet still by new obligations, He engaged me to renew it.
"My mercy has been great, that Providence ordered sometime my coming South, where most suffering has been for our Lord, and for that reason most light has been given to professors here, that they might see what was clear duty in these trying, tempting, and backsliding times. And whenever the Lord helped me to see our covenant obligations, which are the glory of Scotland, I was serious and zealous, ye know, to impart to all of you, whom I was acquaint with. The Lord always making my love to Him to abound, I thought no travail ill wared [laid out], or any hazard too great on any occasion, whereby I might propagate His despised interest among you.
"You know how much I have contended with you for paying of that cursed cess, ordered by the Convention of Estates for bearing down the Gospel; as I was honoured to witness against it at a committee on Saturday last, at night. You are not aware how you bring the blood of saints on your heads by this obedience to the stated enemies of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your opposing of that which was and is the judgment of the most tender professors (in withdrawing from indulged ministers, and from these ministers that favoured them, and so did not, nor would not declare against the Indulgence as a sin that most heinously and rebelliously dishonours our blessed Lord as head of the Church, and sets up a tyrannous usurper in His place), was a particular I much contended [insisted on] with many of you, on my hearing you pleading for a sinful union with those who have conspired to dethrone our blessed Lord. Some of you opposed that which was an honourable testimony for our Lord at Rutherglen, and that declaration at Sanquhar, and the testimony or covenant that was taken at the Queensferry; calling these rash and inconsiderate! whom the Lord called out to be valiant contenders for His truth and interest (which is now contemned by a wicked apostate generation), and to seal all of them with blood.
"By all these the Lord has been calling His people to come out from among Babel's brood; its cursed brood, who by many subtile satanical ways, what by Prelacy, Quakerism, Arminianism, Latitudinarians, and Indulged ministers, and ministers and professors that love so their quiet that they will not declare against and decline that usurping traitor on the throne, Charles Stuart, and all the cursed crew of pretended magistrates in Scotland, having forfeited their right of government, as appears by their wicked and unparallelled apostacy from that Solemn League and Covenant; upon that foul pretext, that we are not in a probable capacity to extirpate them, or put them out of office. When, in our place and station, we give our witness against these usurpations, we so far contend for God, and witness for His trodden down and despised interest, and testify our unwillingness that our Lord should totally give up with this poor land.
"Oh! this hath been many times a sad heart to me; that ye have looked more to the credit of men than the glory of our great Lord God. I fear this testimony be unacceptable and hazardous to you to maintain because of that they call treason in it; but, ah! there is so much done to advance a mortal creature, a stated enemy to Christ, a furious, hasty, cruel murderer of God's saints, that there is fear of disowning God, and a palpable denying of Him before men, when you own these tyrannous oppressors. Your estates you cannot part with; your credit and pleasures, and your quiet in the world, you will not part with. You will rather imagine arguments to cheat yourselves in defending your practices, that are clear breaches of covenant, if your too great carnal love to the world did not blind you, and your unwillingness to quit your life for Christ; which soon will come to an end, however, with less comfort than you would certainly have, when you adventure all for our blessed Lord.
"As for you, Mr. Alexander; I may say I have found you willing, on good information, to be for tender cleaving to your dear Master; and bad information making it a question if it was duty to dethrone the pretended king, which, Mr. T.H. and Mr. R.M. opposing, biassed you from that principal duty, by which we are singularly known to be true Covenanters. And leave these that are blind, and follow your dear Master, in the duties He calls His people to; and He will own them (and I am persuaded He has owned them) who have owned Him in this duty. You did quarrel at field-meetings, enemies ordering against them, and consenting that house-meetings be enjoyed; but here is your testimony; when you keep the fields, you declare that our Lord's Church has liberty to keep her meetings and ordinances where she pleases, and ought not to be at the arbitrament of men.
"To Mr. Mitchell I say; I have had a great esteem of you for a true lover of piety, and I doubt not, the Lord has sealed your ministry sometimes, and some witnesses of it I have known. But, O! sir, what a fearful snare are you in, by complying with curates in hearing them, and taking both sacraments off their hands! Oh! if ye quit not all carnal love to the world, to credit, and [to] friends that will oppose your coming off, the hazard is great; the Lord may rank you with them that have opposed the rising of His kingdom. However, I am sure, He will make you mourn for it, and I doubt [not], if ye shortly come not off from that accursed crew, that the Lord will send you a sorer trial than sufferers for Him meet with.
"To Mr. Watson I write this as my last testimony. Oh! how unfaithful is his ministry; he dare not, for fear of losing his ministry, declare against the heinous breach of Covenant by all the pretended magistrates in the land. I grant, your clearness as to other things was much one with my own. O! Sir, quit men as they quit Christ's way and interest; else you will never be clear in truths; as the Lord lets out light and increaseth it. And this is most dreadful, to be so ensnared to walk in darkness, and so be in opposition to our blessed Lord! Oh! let love to the Lord Jesus Christ assuredly overcome you; and then admiring of men, and cleaving to them who are out of Christ's way, will be no small matter, but a heinous sin. Oh! will you adventure your salvation on it, to cleave to them who are reproaching our Lord, His people, and interest, by mixing in with the cursed curates? That person ye cleave to draws on Him the guilt of all the saints' blood that is shed in maintaining His interest and covenant, whose judgment ye cannot decline, He being judge of all the world.
"Ye may say much, every one of you that know me. I was many times negligent of a tender walking, by seeking of settlement; and if that had been my lot, ye had not heard of this testimony. You know, every one of you, this testimony I gave you formerly; even when with you. I many times wished from my heart the Lord would not order a settlement to me among you. My heart was broken with your lukewarmness and indifferency. And this I testified to several of you, and I rather choosed, I said often, to be a sheep-keeper in the South, where I might be encouraged in godliness, than to live in pomp and ease at home with an ill conscience. And when I came away last, I was sorry at my purpose of leaving Scotland, when I heard all were agreeing to apostacy, in my judgment then, from our blessed covenanted God; and I was determined for Ireland then, being ill informed of every one of the kingdoms, there not being a people tenderly owning the Covenant in Ireland, but all some way owning the usurper Charles Stuart.
"But in poor Scotland, here in the South, I found a poor handful, and but one faithful minister, whom the Lord called out, viz., Mr. Donald Cargill, to be His messenger to His people, and to give witness against the apostacy of ministers and professors; even those who were great lights in the land are now in obscurity, and avowedly reproaching our Lord's interest and people; whom yet the Lord will clothe with shame, and make their peace they boast of, and quiet sleep, to their great confounding.
"As for the call I have to suffer, I found it my only peace to quit thoughts of Ireland, that I might not be involved in their guilt of denying to have our Lord Jesus Christ to be King over them. Oh! that poor party I find only for maintaining His prerogative royal, to which I am joined, Mr. Donald Cargill being the only faithful ambassador our Lord has in Scotland! I, following the ordinances on Friday last; being as well armed for defending the Gospel, and myself, as I could; beyond expectation, a party of Linlithgow's soldiers is sent out to my lodging, and not dreading danger in the day-time, I thought our persecutors had never heard of my name. I was apprehended, and now at last brought hither to close prison; the Lord having honoured me to give an ample testimony before the Council and Lords of Justiciary, for my wronged Lord Jesus.
"And supposing I must seal it with my blood, I leave this testimony to you, my friends and acquaintances in Aberdeenshire, and subscribe it, November 17, 1680,"JAMES SKENE.""From my delectable prison; in which my Lord has allowed me His peace and presence, and comforted me with that I shall reign with Him eternally; for I am His, and bought with His precious blood."
Mr. JAMES SKENE
To his Friend and Fellow-prisoner N.
"MY MUCH HONOURED FRIEND IN CHRIST,I give it under my hand, I have no cause to rue my sweet bargain. His cross is easy and light yet; and that which is most terrifying, I hope He will make comfortable. O lovely Lord! what could make Him to choose me to suffer for Him? What is all the world to me, if His honour be at the stake? If His honour be advanced by my death, O happy me!
"I have oftentimes wished a suffering lot; I heard and saw so much of God's goodness, that I thought the cross and comforts in Christ could not be separated. And I have no reason to complain; the Lord is so oft the joy of my heart, that I am forced to wonder at it.
"Leaving further troubling you, hoping you will be as good as your word; be much in prayer for these two or three days. It is likely on Thursday next I will need no help of prayers, being come to the immediate vision of my Lord, to see Him as He is; I will be stupefied, as it were, and amazed at it. If His merits were not of infinite value, I might question, What would I do? But He has promised that I shall reign with Him."JAMES SKENE."
Mr. JAMES SKENE
To his Friend and Fellow-prisoner N.
"MY DEAR FRIEND IN CHRIST,I received yours, encouraging me to hold on in my blessed Lord's way, which He hath pathed to me. I am not unmindful of you, as I can, and I desire you to pray, that none may offend at the Lord's interest for me, there being willingness on my part to suffer; though justly they cannot condemn me; for they offer me a delivery, if I would submit to the Duke's and Council's mercy; but it is evidently often seen, that the tender mercies of the wicked are cruelty. I find no liberty to deny my Lord for fear of death. I hope He will make up my loss in Himself. All I can desire of you is, to pray much for me, that the Lord will own me, for His own cause, before the adversaries, and in my dissolution. I wish the Lord to comfort His people, and tenderly own His despised interest.
"Mr. Carstairs [see note above] said, 'He was ashamed of that principle we maintained, and that we were not sound Presbyterians, and wished the Lord to preserve him from the like. I am no whit troubled at this, I bless my Lord. They would have me conferring with him. I said, I would not notice him if he came near me.
"Tell my friend I would have written, but had no time. I wrote yesternight to him. I need both your helps by supplications and strong cries to the Lord, to carry me cleanly through the valley and shadow of death.
"I must leave here, wishing the Lord to bear you up under all trials. I thought ye should have been in eternity before me; but now I think I shall leave you on the valleys when I shall arrive at the blessed harbour. I am, dear friend, your well-wisher and Christ's prisoner,"JAMES SKENE."
"P.S.A double of my Confessions you may have from a friend, whom I shall desire to send it to you. I got my summons for eternity with sound of trumpet yesternight; and my indictment with five shouts of the trumpet, and pursuivants in their coats, at seven of the clock, was a grave sight; but my Lord helped me not to be afraid at it, since all was from Him."
THE LAST SPEECH AND TESTIMONY
Mr. JAMES SKENE,
Brother to the Laird of Skene;
Which he intended to have delivered on the scaffold,
December 1st, 1680.
"DEAR PEOPLE,I am come here this day to lay down my life for owning Jesus Christ's despised interest, and for asserting that He is a King, and for averring that He is head of His own Church, and has not delegated or deputed any, either Pope, King, or Council, to be his vicegerents on earth.
"Since my blessed Lord Jesus Christ has in His love engaged me by a particular covenant, in His own terms, to renounce and resign myself to Him, in soul and body; assuring me by His word, and testifying His acceptance of my resignation by His holy and blessed Spirit; promising to redeem me from all sins; giving me assurance of a saving interest in Himself; and now, having called me in His providence, contriving this my suffering (by permitting His ungodly enemies to apprehend and take me prisoner, having wickedly plotted my taking, in my going on the way to attend what the Lord had to work on my soul by His preached Gospel), to give a testimony for His covenant, interest, and people that are reproached and borne down by a perjured God-contemning generation, and to seal my sufferings and testimony with my blood; I most willingly lay down my life for His interest.
"I leave my testimony to the National Covenant, and the Solemn League and Covenant, which are founded on the Scriptures, the Word of God, which are written by the prophets and apostles in the Old and New Testaments, which has Jesus Christ, the blessed object of our faith, for the chief corner stone of the building. I also leave my testimony to Mr. Donald Cargill's papers, taken at the Queensferry, called a New Covenant, according as they agree to the true original copy.
"I adhere to Presbyterian Government, and the whole work of Reformation of the Church of Scotland; the Confession of Faith, and Larger and Shorter Catechisms, consulted well, and written by the Assembly of Divines; except that article about Magistracy, when ill expounded, in the 23d chapter; because our magistracy is but pure tyranny, exercised by the lustful rage of men, yea, rather devils in shape of men, whom God has permitted, in His holy and spotless wisdom, for a trial to His people, and a snare to some others, to oppress, tyrannize, and blasphemously tread under foot His truth, interest, and people; yea, that article is expounded in the National Covenant, where we have vowed to the Almighty God, not to maintain the king's interest, when he disowns the Covenant, and well-settled Church-government by Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland.1
"I adhere to the Testimony for the interest of Christ, at Rutherglen; at which time the wicked Acts of Parliament and the blasphemous Declarations, by which they have sworn to be enemies to the interest of Christ, were solemnly burnt.
"I adhere to the Sanquhar Declaration; whereby we, that were true Presbyterians, did depose that tyrant Charles Stuart, who is the head of malignants and malignancy, from his exercise of government as to us; and we do no otherwise than the people of Libnah, 2 Chron. 21.10: 'At the same time also did the people of Libnah revolt from under the King of Judah, because he had forsaken the Lord God of his fathers.' And this practice is not so gross that I own, in declaring against that monstrous tyrant on the throne of Britain, as many conjecture; if seriously folk would consider the injustice practised in civil matters, by himself, and all his adherent inferior magistrates, (yea, inferior tyrants; for he is the head and supreme tyrant,) that no poor man, that has a just cause, if he be not as profligate and wicked as themselves, can have justice; and his usurpation in ecclesiastic matters; which is too great a task for any on earth, since they must take upon them to dethrone our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who is given in all things to be head to His Church (Eph. 1.22; Ps. 2.8). You would canvass the justice of disowning his authority, which to do you are engaged by oath to God, he overturning the whole work of Reformation; which was the great ground of his enthronement in Scotland, to maintain the Covenant, and work of Reformation. His wicked burning of the Covenant, and 'Causes of God's Wrath,' is cause enough to me to disown his authority, which is so maintained by perjury. 'Shall he break the Covenant, and be delivered?' (Ezek. 17.15-19.)
"Consider likewise his oppression, in ordering military forces to oppress God's people, to obstruct, impede, and hinder the worship of God, the ordinances in houses or fields, and compel them to join with a cursed crew of prelates, curates, and some indulged ministers. Yea, his tyranny is so great, that he ordered an host [i.e., the Highland host] of armed men in the year 1678, to invade a peaceable country in the West: who robbed, stole from, and oppressed poor people, for no other reason, but because they would not pollute their consciences, and be subject to Prelacy; which erastian government he has contended for these several years, and kept up in this land. If there were no other cause of his rejection than these proceedings, they might suffice to justify any, who were engaged by God, having time and place, to cut him off. For, by the law of God, murder, adultery, and oppression are punishable by death; and kings are not exempted, far less tyrants that are lawfully excommunicate.
"But to those horrid impieties is added the shedding of the blood of poor innocents; which aggregeth [aggravateth] his guilt, so that, though the Lord should make him penitent, he deserves death by the law, according to which blood cannot be expiated but by the blood of him who shed it. For confirmation of what I have said, see Ezekiel 21.25-27; read also Ezekiel 43.9: 'Let them put away the carcases of their kings far from me, and I will dwell in the midst of them for ever.' Consider how our fathers contended for truth, and must we lose what they gained? Ah! this atheistical generation of perjured, adulterous, and bloody powers are ripe for God's vengeance!
"I give my testimony against the cursed persecuting soldiers; the blood of God's saints is on their heads, and mine is laid on them, especially Sergeant Warrock, who apprehended me. My blood is on the Justiciary, who subscribed2 to my sentence; and on the fifteen assizers, James Glen, stationer, being clerk; and on the Chancellor; and on Mr George Mackenzie, who pleaded for my condemnation; and Thomas Dalziel, who ordered my taking; and upon Andrew Cunningham, who condemned me; and upon all the rest who are accessory in the least thereto; yea, the Privy Council are to be accountable for my blood; and my blood is on the head of Mr. J[ohn] C[arstairs], who condemned my testimony against these bloody tyrants, asserting me to be a Jesuit. ['In charity, I shall believe that Mr. Skene was informed that the Rev. Mr. Carstairs had said so; but the same charity, and Mr. Carstairs' known tenderness and temper, forbid me to believe that he said so.'Wodrow.]
"I leave my testimony against the receiving that accursed traitor, James Duke of York, and all Papists, Quakers, prelates, curates, latitudinarians, indulged ministers, and their favourers, the Hamilton Declaration, and other papers and actings, directly or indirectly against the truth. I leave my testimony against the lukewarm professors, who write and speak grievous things to reproach the truly godly, and who keep silence when God calls them to give a free and full testimony for His despised Covenant and whole work of Reformation, against a traitorous, backsliding, and adulterous generation; and as in this place, or any other of my papers, I could not have designed God's enemies any otherwise, than by their pretended offices. Thus far, dear people, I crave your liberty, and let none think that thereby I own them in the least point.
"Likewise, whereas my sufferings were delayed; the Lord, in whose presence I must appear erelong, knows what a soul-grief it is to me to remember it. When the day I was sentenced to die for my dear Lord's interest came, I expected vainly that my relations, that were great in court, who had seen me, should have procured a reprieval for me; but being disappointed, a fear of death surprised me, hearing that all were presently making ready for my execution; and then my carnal relations, almost weeping on me, engaged me by their insinuations to supplicate that bloody crew for it myself. A carnal well-wisher drew it up in these terms: 'James Skene, prisoner, earnestly desires your lordships to grant him a reprieval for some days, till he canvass these things he was sentenced for with learned and godly men; and your lordships answer.'
"After I subscribed it, a great confusion and horror of spirit fell on me. I went to prayer, wishing in my heart it were not granted; but such was my trouble, I could not say anything but nonsense. My heart was afflicted sore with this straitening, and the more when the reprieval was granted. I thought, I, having shifted the cross, my Lord might deny me that credit again, and put a worse on me in requital of my slighting Him. I judge, the Lord left me thus to slip, to humble me, and that He hid His face to make me exemplarily punished for untender carrying under His cross, which He had chosen for me; to warn others under the cross, that they would be circumspect and zealous for keeping from being polluted with any compliance with the defections of the times, that they may have a cleanly suffering. From this backsliding I recovered not for two days after; but found it sad for my soul; the Lord hid His face from me. But now my God has had compassion on me; and, this time of the eight days' reprieval, He has preserved me from such a backsliding, when the devil by his emissaries has had much artifice to turn me aside from the way of the Lord. Yet I will say this far; all I have done was not in order to own that wicked Council as lawful rulers; but my life being in their tyrannous hands, I thought then I might desire as much favour of them as of a robber that had the dagger at my breast; and I truly look on all their actings in courts, either higher or lower judicatories, in matters civil or ecclesiastic, that they act as murderers, oppressors, and tyrants only.
"And now these bloody oppressors say, because I will not sinfully renounce my Lord and His interest, and look on them as magistrates, and say I spake rashly what I did (on which terms, craving them pardon, I would soon get remission and be at liberty,) that they look on me as guilty of my own blood. But I hope my God will not account me guilty, who knows I dare not so sinfully disown Him, for all the hazard of my poor life. There being a dilemma in my case, either I must sin or suffer; I have found it my only peace with my Lord, to choose suffering, and hate the way of sinning. And this I thought good to insert in my dying testimony, that others may beware of an untender walk with God, 'who is a consuming fire to all impenitent sinners.' Now, my Lord has sealed my remission for this extravagance, and has entered into a new covenant with me, and I have resigned myself wholly to Him, to be at His disposal; and it is my rejoicing, that He is calling me out to honour me so much as to suffer for His sake. A poor countryman with us, would think it his credit to be called to signify his loyalty to a nobleman, who was his master, whose courage obliges him to fight for his safety to the loss of his life. But oh! what a disparity is in my case! I am but a base, wretched, sinful worm, and I am called to signify my love and loyalty to the King of Glory, before these treacherous and perfidious powers that sit at ease, and disown, yea, declare against my Lord, that He is not our covenanted King and Lord. And the two despised Covenants are not despicable, but our glory. I will first declare they are traitors, and ought to be disowned as magistrates or lawful rulers; and so many of them as have imbrued their hands in the blood of the saints, either by commissions, or votes in councils, or other courts; or have lived, oppressing God's people, in adultery, uncleanness, wickedness, and witchcraft; they are guilty of death. And when there are no other magistrates who will duly punish these impieties, it is my duty, out of zeal to the Lord (I say it again), if the Lord would employ me, to cut them off; as that zeal of Phinehas, though mocked at by them in their proclamation, is a good example.
"Thus I end, wishing that what I have here penned for a testimony to the Lord's despised interest, may have weight with any who consider, that, what I have written, I must erelong reckon for; and so I have laboured to be single-hearted before the Lord in it.
"Now, I have touched everything I can remember concerning my judgment of things controverted, as also some reasons of my principles, asserted in face of a great council, and twice before the Justiciaries; which I gladly sign with my subscription, glorying in the Lord who owned me, so that I was not ashamed, but judged it my glory to give my full and free testimony for my blessed Lord's despised interest, against that wicked and treacherous pack of my God's declared enemies.
"Now, farewell, all dear friends! I hope the Lord will have a glorious Church in Scotland, and that He will raise His glory out of the ashes of a burnt Covenant. Now, farewell sun, moon, and stars! Farewell, holy Scriptures! Oh! I am going to a life where I shall no more be troubled with a body of sin or death. Oh! I am going to a mansion of glory that my Lord has prepared for me. I shall have a crown of life; because I have been, by my blessed Lord's assistancethough I slipped asidemade faithful to the death.
"Now, welcome Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou hast redeemed me by thy price, and by thy power. Oh! Lord God of Hosts, into thy hands I commit my Spirit!
"Sic subscribitur,"JA. SKENE.
"In the close prison of Edinburgh, November 30, 1680; being the day before my execution, according to the unjust sentence of a perfidious court."
1. Let none mistake this sentence as if this worthy gentleman thereby disowned that unshaken principle of the Protestant religion; viz., that infidelity or difference in religion does not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority; for it is plain, he rejects only the false sense that was then put upon it, to make it an argument for defence of tyranny and arbitrary power. [Note by the compilers of the "Cloud," in the first edition.]
2. These and the like sentences, which may possibly be met with in some other testimonies, ought not to be mistaken as the effects of a revengeful ungospel Spirit, but rather as a simple declaration of their being guilty of blood in condemning them; to serve as a warning to the persecutors, not to proceed further in these wicked courses, and to waken them to repentance (if possible) for what they had already done; and is much parallel in its nature with that of Jeremiah, in his apology before the princes, chap. 26.15. [Note by the original compilers of the "Cloud."]