To the IMPARTIAL READER.
The design of the following work was to collect from the best authorities, a summary account of the lives characters and contendings of a certain number of our more RENOWNED SCOTS WORTHIES, who for their faithful services, ardent zeal, constancy in sufferings, and other Christian graces and virtues, deserve a most honourable memorial in the church of Christ; -- and for which their names both have and will be savoury to all the true lovers of our Zion, while reformation-principles are regarded in Scotland.
But then perhaps at first view, some may be surprized to find one so obscure appear in a work of this nature, especially when there are so many fit hands for such an employment. But if the respect I have for the memories of these worthies; the familiar acquaintance and sweet fellowship that once subsisted betwixt some of my ancestors and some of them; but, above all, the love and regard which I have for the same cause which they owned and maintained, be not sufficient to apologize for me in this; then I must crave thy patience to hear me in a few particulars; and that both anent the reasons for this publication, and its utility: Which I hope will plead my excuse for this undertaking.
And First, Having for some time had a desire to see something of this kind published, but finding nothing thereof, except a few broken accounts interspersed throughout different publications yet in print, at last I took up a resolution to publish a second edition of the life of one of these worthies already published at large. -- Yet, upon farther reflection, considering it would be better to collect into one volume, the most material relations (of as many of our Scots worthies as could be obtained) from such of the historical records, biographical accounts, and other authenticated manuscripts, as I could have access unto, with the substance of these lives already in print, which, being put altogether, I thought would not only prove more useful in giving the reader the pleasure of viewing that all at once, which before was scattered up and down in so many corners, but also at the same time it might be free of the inconveniences that little pamphlets often fall under. And yet at the same time I am aware that some may expect to find a more full account of these worthies, both as to their number and the matters of fact in the time specified, than what is here to be met with -- But in this publication, it is not pretended to give an account of all our Scots worthies, or their transactions: For that were a task now altogether impracticable, and that upon several accounts. For,
1st, There have been many of different ranks and degrees of men famous in the church of Scotland, of whom little more is mentioned in history than their names, places of abode, and age wherein they existed, and scarcely that. Again, there are many others, of whom the most that can be said is only a few faint hints, which of necessity must render their lives (if they may properly be so called) very imperfect, from what they might and would have been, had they been collected and wrote near a century ago, when their actions and memories were more fresh and recent; several persons being then alive, who were well acquainted with their lives and proceedings, whereby they might have been confirmed by many uncontestible evidences that cannot now possibly be brought in; yea, and more so, seeing there is a chasm in our history during the time of the Usurper, not to mention how many of our national records were about that time altogether lost.
2dly, There are several others, both in the reforming and suffering periods, of whom somewhat now is recorded, and yet not sufficient to form a narrative of, so that, excepting by short relations or marginal notes, they cannot otherwise be supplied. -- For it is with regret that the publishers have it to declare, that, upon application unto several places for farther information concerning some of these worthy men, they could find little or nothing in the most part of their registers (excepting a few things by way of oral tradition) being through course of time either designedly, or through negligence lost.
3dly, Some few of these lives already in print being somewhat prolix, it seemed proper to abridge them; which is done in a manner as comprehensive as possible, so that nothing material is omitted, which it is hoped will be thought to be no way injurious to the memory of these worthy men.
Secondly, As to the utility of this subject, biography in general, (as a historian has observed), must be one of the most entertaining parts of history; and how much more the lives and transactions of our noble SCOTS WORTHIES, wherein is contained not only a short compend of the testimony and wrestlings of the church of Scotland for near the space of 200 years, yea from the earliest period of Christianity in Scotland (the introduction included) but also a great variety of other things, both instructing and entertaining, which at once must both edify and refresh the serious and understanding reader. -- For,
1st, In these lives we have a short view of the actions, atchievements, and some of the failings of our ancestors set forth before us, as examples for our caution and imitation; wherein by the experience, and at the expence of former ages, by a train of prudent reflections, we may learn important lessons for our conduct in life, both in faith and manners, for the furnishing ourselves with the like Christian armour of zeal, faithfulness, holiness, stedfastness, meekness, patience, humility, and other graces.
2dly, In them we behold what the wisest of men could not think on without astonishment, that God does in very deed dwell with men upon earth, (men a little too low for heaven, and much too high for earth); nay more, dealeth |so familiarly with them, as to make them previously acquainted with his secret designs, both of judgment and mercy, displaying his divine power, and the efficacy of his grace thro' their infirmities, subduing the most hardened sinners to himself, while he as it were reigns himself to their prayers, and makes them the subject of his divine care and superintendency.|
3dly, Here we have as it were a mirror exemplifying and setting forth all the virtues and duties of a religious and a domestic life. -- Here is the example of a virtuous nobleman, an active statesman, a religious gentleman, a faithful and painful minister in the exercise of his office, instant in season and out of season, a wise and diligent magistrate, one fearing God and hating covetousness, a courageous soldier, a good christian, a loving husband, an indulgent parent, a faithful friend in every exigence; and in a word, almost every character worthy of our imitation. And,
Lastly, In them we have the various changes of soul exercise, experiences, savoury expressions and last words of those, once living, now glorified witnesses of Christ. And |as the last speeches of men are remarkable, how remarkable then must the last words and dying expressions of these NOBLE WITNESSES and MARTYRS of Christ be?| For the nearer the dying saint is to heaven, and the more of the presence of Christ that he has in his last moments, when death looks him in the face, the more interesting will his conversation be to survivors, and particularly acceptable to real Christians, because all that he says is supported by his example, which commonly has considerable influence upon the human mind. -- It is true, there is an innate and latent evil in man's nature, that makes him more prone and obsequious to follow bad than good examples; yet sometimes, (yea often) there is a kind of compulsive energy arising from the good examples of such as are eminent either in place or godliness, leading forth others to imitate them in the like graces and virtues. We find the children of Israel followed the Lord all the days of Joshua, and the elders that out-lived him; and Christ's harbinger, John Baptist, gained as much by his practice and example as by his doctrine: His apparel, his diet, his conversation, and all, did preach forth his holiness. Nazianzen saith of him, |That he cried louder by the holiness of his life, than by the sincerity of his doctrine.| And were it not so, the apostle would not have exhorted the Philippians unto this, saying, Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk, so as ye have us for an ensample, &c. chap. iii.17. -- And so says the apostle James, Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an ensample, &c. chap. v.10. And no question, that next to the down-pouring of the Spirit from on high, the rapid and admirable success of the gospel, both in the primitive times, and in the beginning of our reformations (from popery and prelacy) in a great measure must have been owing to the simplicity, holy and exemplary lives of the preachers and professors thereof. A learned expositor observes, |That ministers are likely to preach most to the purpose, when they can press their hearers to follow their example.| For it is very observable that without this, the church of Christ is so far from gaining ground, that it loses what it hath already gained in the world; of which the church of Scotland is a most glaring document; yea truth itself suffers by this means, and can gain no credit from their mouths; and how despicable must that man's character be, whose authority is lost, and his example goes for nothing. So that upon the whole, I flatter myself that no small advantage (thro' the divine blessing) might accrue to the public from this subject in general, and from the lives of our Scots worthies in particular, providing these or the like cautions following were observed: And that is, 1. We are not to sit down or rest ourselves upon the person, principle or practice of any man, yea the best saint we have ever read or heard of, but only to seek these gifts and graces that most eminently shone forth in them. -- Praeceptis, non exemplis, standum, i.e. |we must not stand by examples but precepts:| For it is the peculiar honour and dignity of Jesus Christ only to be imitated by all men absolutely, and for any person or persons to idolize any man or men, in making them a pattern in every circumstance or particular, were nothing else than to pin an implicit faith upon other mens sleeves. The apostle to the Corinthians (in the forecited text) gives a very good caveat against this, when he says, Be ye followers (or as the Dutch annotators translate, Be ye imitators) of me, as I am of Christ. -- And, 2. Neither are we on the other hand to dwell too much upon the faults, or failings that have sometime been discovered in some of God's own dear children; but at the same time to consider with ourselves, that although they were eminent men of God, yet at the same time were they the sons of Adam also: For it is possible yea many times has been the case for good men not only to make foul falls themselves but also when striking against the errors and enormities of others to over-reach the mark, and go beyond the bounds of truth in some degree themselves; perfection being no inherent plant in this life, so says the apostle, They are earthen vessels, men of like passions with you, &c.2 Cor. iv.7. Acts xiv.15.
Thirdly, As to the motives leading us to this publication. Can it be supposed that there was ever an age, since reformation commenced in Scotland, that stood in more need of useful holy and exemplary lives being set before them; and that both in respect to the actions and memories of these worthies, and with regard to our present circumstances. For in respect to the memories and transactions of these worthies, it is now a long time since bishops Spotiswood, Guthry and Burnet (not to mention some English historians) in their writings, clothed the actions and proceedings of those our ancestors (both in this reforming and suffering period) in a most grotesque and frantic dress, whereby their names and noble attainments have been loaded with reproach, sarcasms and scurrility; but as if this had not been enough, to expose them in rendering them, and their most faithful contendings, odious, some modern writers, under the character of monthly reviewers, have set their engines again at work, to misrepresent some of them, and set them in such a dishonourable light, by giving them a character that even the above-mentioned historians, yea their most avowed enemies, of their own day, would scarcely have subscribed: to such a length is poor degenerate Scotland arrived. -- And is it not high time to follow the wise man's advice, Open thy mouth for the dumb, in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction? Prov. xxxi.8.
Again, with regard to our present circumstances, there needs little more to prove the necessity of this collection at present, than to shew how many degrees we have descended from the worthy deeds or merit of our Renowned forefathers, by running a parallel betwixt their contendings and attainments, and our present national defections and backsliding, courses, in these few particulars following.
Our venerable reformers were not only highly instrumental in the Lord's hand in bringing a people out of the abyss of gross Popish darkness (under which they had for a long time continued), but also brought themselves under most solemn and sacred vows and engagements to the Most High, and whenever they were to set about any further piece of reformation in their advancing state, they always set about the renovation of these covenants. -- They strenuously asserted the divine right of presbytery, the headship of Christ, and intrinsic rights of his church in the reign of James VI. and suffered much on that account -- lifted arms once and again in the reign of Charles I.; and never ceased until they got an uniformity in doctrine, worship, discipline, and church-government, brought out and established betwixt the three kingdoms for that purpose, whereby both church and state were enabled to exert themselves in rooting out every error and heresy whatever, until they obtained a complete settlement according to the word of God, and our covenants established thereon; which covenants were then by several excellent acts both civil and ecclesiastic made the MAGNA CHARTA of these nations, with respect to every civil and religious privilege; none being admitted unto any office or employment in church or state, without scriptural and covenant qualifications. -- And then was that part of the antient prophecy further fulfilled, In the wilderness shall waters break forth, and streams in the desart, -- and the isles shall wait for his law. Christ then reigned gloriously in Scotland. His church appeared beautiful as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem: -- For from the outmost parts were heard songs, even glory to the righteous.
And although Charles II. and a set of wicked counsellors overturned the whole fabric of that once-glorious structure of reformation, openly divested the Son of God of his headship in and over his own church, as far as human laws could do, burned these solemn covenants by the hands of the hangman (the owning of which was by act of parliament made high treason afterward). -- Yet even then the seed of the church produced a remnant who kept the word of Christ's patience stood in defence of the whole of his persecuted truths, in face of all opposition, and that to the effusion of the last drop of their blood: |These two prime truths, Christ's headship and our covenants, being in the mouths of all our late martyrs, when they mounted their bloody theatres;| and in the comfort of suffering on such clear grounds, and for such valuable truths, they went triumphing off the stage of time to eternity.
But alas! how have we their degenerate and renegade posterity followed their example or traced their steps, yea we have rather served ourselves heirs to them who persecuted and killed them, by our long accession to their perjury and apostacy in a general and avowed denial of our most solemn vows and oaths of allegiance to Jesus Christ. To mention nothing more of the total extermination of our ancient and laudable constitution, during the two tyrants reigns, with the many grave stones cast thereon by the acts rescissory, &c. (which acts seem by no act in particular yet to be repealed) and claim of right at the revolution, whereby we have in a national way and capacity (whatever be the pretences) declared ourselves to be on another footing than the footing of the once-famous covenanted church of Scotland. How many are the defections and encroachments annually and daily made upon our most valuable rights and privileges! For since the revolution, the duty of national covenanting has not only been slighted and neglected, yea ridiculed by some, but even some leading church-men, in their writings, have had the effrontery to impugn (though in a very sly way) the very obligation of these covenants, asserting that there is little or no warrant for national covenanting under the new Testament dispensation: And what awful attacks since that time have been made upon the crown-rights of our Redeemer (notwithstanding some saint acts then made to the contrary) as witness the civil magistrate's still retaining his old usurped power, in calling and dissolving the supreme judicatories of the church, yea, sometimes to an indefinite time. -- Likewise appointing diets of fasting and thanksgiving to be observed, under fines and other civil pains annexed; imposing oaths, acts and statutes upon church-men, under pain of ecclesiastic censure, or other Erastian penalties. And instead of our covenants, an unhallowed union is gone into with England, whereby our rights and liberties are infringed not a little, bow down thy body as the ground that we may pass over. -- Lordly patronage, which was cast out of the church in her purest times, is now restored and practised to an extremity. -- A toleration bill is granted, whereby all and almost every error, heresy and delusion appears now rampant and triumphant, prelacy is now become fashionable and epidemical, and of popery we are in as much danger as ever; Socinian and deistical tenets are only in vogue with the wits of the age, foli rationi cedo, the old Porphyrian maxim having so far gained the ascendant at present, that reason (at least pretenders to it, who must needs hear with their eyes, and see with their ears, and understand with their elbows till the order of nature be inverted) threaten not a little to banish revealed religion and its most important doctrines out of the professing world. -- A latitudinarian scheme prevails among the majority, the greater part, with the Athenians, spending their time only to hear and see something new, gadding about to change their ways, going in the ways of Egypt and Assyria, to drink the waters of Shichor and the river, unstable souls, like so many light combustibles wrapt up by the eddies of a whirlwind, tossed hither and thither till utterly dissipated. -- The doctrine of original sin is by several denied, others are pulling down the very hedges of church government, refusing all church-standards, |covenants, creeds and confessions, whether of our own or of other churches, yea and national churches also, as being all of them carnal, human or antichristian inventions,| contrary to many texts of scripture, particularly 2 Tim. i.13. Hold fast the form of sound words: and the old Pelagian and Arminian errors appear again upon the stage, the merit of the creature, free will and good works being taught from press and pulpit almost every where, to the utter discarding of free grace, Christ's imputed righteousness, and the power of true godliness. -- All which pernicious errors were expunged and cast over the hedge by our reforming forefathers: And is it not highly requisite, that their faithful contendings, orthodox and exemplary lives, should be copied out before us, when walking so repugnant to acknowledging the God of our fathers, and walking before him with a perfect heart.
Again, if we shall run a comparison betwixt the practice of those who are the subject-matter of this collection, and our present prevailing temper and disposition, we will find how far they correspond with one another. How courageous and zealous were they for the cause and honour of Christ! How cold and lukewarm are we, of whatever sect or denomination! How willing were they to part with all for him! And what honour did many of them count it, to suffer for his name! How unwilling are we to part with any thing for him, much less to suffer such hardships for his sake! Of that we are ashamed, which they counted their ornament; accounting that our glory which they looked on as a disgrace! How easy was it for them to choose the greatest suffering rather than the least sin! How hard is it for us to refuse the greatest sin before the least suffering! How active were they for the glory of God and the good of souls, and diligent to have their own evidences clear for heaven! But how little concern have we for the cause of Christ, his work and interest, and how dark are the most part with respect to their spiritual state and duty! They were sympathizing christians; but, alas! how little fellow-feeling is to be found among us: it is rather Stand by, for I am holier than thou. Oh! that their christian virtues, constant fidelity, unfeigned love and unbiassed loyalty to Zion's King and Lord, could awaken us from our neutrality and supine security, wherein instead of imitating the goodness and virtuous dispositions of these our ancestors, we have by our defections and vicious courses invited neglect and contempt on ourselves, being (as a philosopher once observed of passionate people) like men standing on their heads who see all things the wrong way; giving up with the greater part of these our most valuable rights and liberties, all which were most esteemed by our RENOWNED PROGENITORS. -- The treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.
And if we shall add unto all these, in our progressive and increasing apostacy, our other heinous land-crying sins and enormities, which prevail and increase among all ranks and denominations of men (few mourning over the low state of our Zion, and the daily decay of the interest of Christ and religion). Then we not only may say as the poet once said of the men of Athens, Thebes and Oedipus, |That we live only in fable, and nothing remains of ancient Scotland but the name;| but also take up this bitter complaint and lamentation.
|Ah Scotland, Scotland! How is the gold become dim, how is the most fine gold changed! Ah! Where is the God of Elijah, and where is his glory! Where is that Scottish zeal that once flamed in the breasts of thy nobility, barons, ministers and commoners of all sorts! Ah, where is that true courage and heroic resolution for religion and the liberties of the nation that did once animate all ranks in the land! Alas, alas! True Scots blood now runs cool in our veins! The cloud is now gone up in a great measure from off our assemblies; because we have deserted and relinquished the Lord's most noble cause and testimony, by a plain, palpable and perpetual course of backsliding.| -- The crown is fallen from our head, wo unto us, for we have sinned.
For surely we may say of these our times (and with as much propriety) what some of these worthies said of theirs, Quam graviter ingemescerent illi fortes viri qui ecclesiae Scoticanae pro libertate in acte decertarunt, si nostram nunc ignaviam (ne quid gravius dicam) conspicerent, said Mr. Davidson in a letter to the general Assembly 1601, i. e. |How grievously would they bewail our stupenduous slothfulness, could they but behold it, who of old thought no expence of blood and treasure too much for the defence of the church of Scotland's liberties.| -- Or to use the words of another in the persecuting period, |Were it possible that our reformers (and we may add our late martyrs) who are entered in among the glorious choristers in the kingdom of heaven, (singing their melodious songs on harps about the throne of the Lamb) might have a furlough for a short time, to take a view of their apostatizing children, what may we judge would be their conceptions of these courses of defection, so far repugnant to the platform laid down in that glorious work of reformation.| For if innocent Hamilton, godly and patient Wishart, apostolic Knox, eloquent Rollock, worthy Davidson, the courageous Melvils, prophetic Welch, majestic Bruce, great Henderson, renowned Gillespie, learned Binning, pious Gray, laborious Durham, heavenly-minded Rutherford, the faithful Guthries, diligent Blair, heart-melting Livingston, religious Welwood, orthodox and practical Brown, zealous and stedfast Cameron, honest-hearted Cargil, sympathizing M'Ward, persevering Blackadder, the evangelical Traills, constant and pious Renwick, &c. |were filed off from the assembly of the first-born, sent as commissioners to haste down from the mount of God, to behold how quickly their offspring are gone out of the way, piping and dancing after a golden calf: Ah! with what vehemency would their spirits be affected, to see their laborious structure almost razed to the foundation, by those to whom they committed the custody of the word of their great Lord's patience; they in the mean time sheltering themselves under the shadow of a rotten lump of fig-tree leaf distinctions, which will not sconce against the wrath of an angry God in the cool of the day, &c.|
And Finally, What can have a more gloomy aspect in the midst of these evils, (with many more that might be noticed) when our pleasant things are laid waste, than to see such a scene of strife and division carried on, and maintained among Christ's professing witnesses in these lands, whereby true love and sympathy is eradicated, the very vitals of religion pulled out, and the ways of God and godliness lampooned and ridiculed, giving Jacob to the curse, and Israel to the reproaches. -- And it is most lamentable, that while malignants (now as well as formerly) from without are cutting down the carved work of the sanctuary, Christ's professed friends and followers from within are busied in contention and animosities among themselves, by which means the enemy still advances and gains ground, similar to the case (exteriorly) of that once famous and flourishing city and temple of Jerusalem, when it was by Titus Vespasian utterly demolished. -- All which seem to prelude or indicate, that the Lord is about to inflict these long-threatened, impending but protracted judgments upon such a sinning land, church and people. And as many of these worthies have assured us, that judgments are abiding this church and nation; so our present condition and circumstances seem to say, that we are the generation ripening for them apace. -- How much need have we then of the Christian armour that made them proof against Satan, his emissaries, and every trial and tribulation they were subjected unto? Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day.
But by this time somewhat might have been said concerning the testimony of the church of Scotland, as it was carried on and handed down by these witnesses of Christ to posterity, in its different parts and periods -- But as this has been somewhat (I may say needlessly) controverted in these our times, it were too large a subject (for the narrow limits of a preface) to enter upon at present, any further than to observe, that,
(1.) The testimony of the church of Scotland is not only a free, full and faithful testimony, (yea more extensive than the testimony of any one particular church since Christianity commenced in the world) but also a sure and costly testimony, confirmed and sealed with blood; |and that of the best of our nobles, ministers, gentry, burgesses and commons of all sorts;| -- who loved not their lives unto the death, but overcame by the word of their testimony. -- Bind up the testimony, seal the law.
(2.) Altho' there is no truth whatsoever, when once controverted, but it becomes the word of Christ's patience, and so ought to be the word of our testimony, Rev. v.10. xii.11.; truth and duty being always the same in all ages and periods of time, so that what injures one truth, in some sense, injures and affects all; For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all, Jam. ii.10. Yet at the same time it is pretty evident, that the church of Christ in this world is a passing church, still circulating through ages and periods of time, so that she seldom or never turns back under the same point, there being scarcely a century of years elapsed without an alteration of circumstances; yea and more, I suppose that there is no certain book that has or can be written, that will suit the case of one particular church at all times, and in all circumstances: This pre-eminency the holy scriptures only can claim as a complete rule for faith and manners, principle and practice, in all places, ages and times.
(3.) These things premised, let it be observed, That the primitive witnesses had the divinity of the Son of God, and an open confession of him, for their testimony; our reformers from Popery had Antichrist to struggle with, in asserting the doctrines of the gospel, and the right way of salvation in and through Jesus Christ: again, in the reigns of James VI. and Charles I. Christ's REGALIA, and the divine right of presbytery became the subject-matter of their testimony. Then in the beginning of the reign of Charles II. (until he got the whole of our ancient and laudable constitution effaced and overturned) our WORTHIES only saw it their duty to hold and contend for what they had already attained unto. -- But then in the end of this and subsequent tyrant's reign, they found it their duty (a duty which they had too long neglected) to advance one step higher, by casting off their authority altogether, and that as well on account of their manifest usurpation of Christ's crown and dignity, as on account of their treachery, bloodshed and tyranny. And yet as all these faithful witnesses of Christ did harmoniously agree in promoting the kingdom and interest of the Messiah, in all his threefold offices, they stood in defence of religion and liberty (and that not only in opposition to the more gross errors of Popery, but even to the more refined errors of English hierarchy) we must take their testimony to be materially all and the same testimony, only under different circumstances, which may be summed up thus; |The primitive martyrs sealed the prophetic office of Christ in opposition to Pagan idolatry. -- The reforming martyrs sealed his priestly office with their blood, in opposition to Popish idolatry. -- But last of all, our late martyrs have sealed his kingly office with their best blood, in despite of supremacy and bold Erastianism. They indeed have cemented it upon his royal head, so that to the world's end it shall never drop off again.|
But, candid reader, to detain thee no longer upon these or the like considerations, -- I have put the following sheets into thy hands, wherein if thou findest any thing amiss, either as to matter or method, let it be ascribed unto any thing else, rather then want of honesty or integrity of intention; considering, that all mankind are liable to err, and that there is more difficulty in digesting such a great mass of materials into such a small composition, than in writing many volumes. Indeed there is but little probability, that a thing of this nature can altogether escape or evade the critical eye of some carping Momus, particularly such as are either altogether ignorant of reformation principles, or, of what the Lord hath done for covenanted Scotland; and those who can bear with nothing but what comes from those men who are of an uniform stature or persuasion with themselves: and yet were it possible to anticipate anything arising here by way of objection, these few things following might be observed.
Here some may object, That many things more useful for the present generation might have been published, than the deeds and public actings of those men, who have stood so long condemned by the laws of the nation, being exploded by some, and accounted such a reproach, as unfit to be any longer on record. -- In answer to this, I shall only notice, (1.) That there have been some hundreds of volumes published of things fabulous, fictitious and romantic, fit for little else than to amuse the credulous reader; while this subject has been in a great measure neglected. (2.) We find it to have been the constant practice of the Lord's people in all ages, to hand down and keep on record what the Lord had done by and for their forefathers in former times. We find the royal psalmist, in name of the church, oftener than once at this work, Psal. xliv. and lxxviii. We have heard with our ears, O God; our fathers have told us, what works thou didst in their days, in the times of old: We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, &c. (3.) It has been the practice of almost all nations (yea and our own also) to publish the warlike exploits and martial atchievements of their most illustrious heroes, who distinguished themselves in defence of their native country, for a little worldly honour, or a little temporary subsistence; and shall we be behind in publishing the lives, characters, and most memorable actions of these noble CHAMPIONS of Christ, who not only stood in defence of religion and liberty, but also fought the battles of the Lord against his and their avowed enemies, till in imitation of their princely Master, their garments were all stained with blood, for which their names shall be had in everlasting remembrance. (4.) As to the last part of the objection, it must be granted, that in foro homines, their actions and attainments cannot now be pled upon, but in foro Dei, that which was lawful from the beginning cannot afterwards be made sinful or void; and the longer they have been buried under the ashes of neglect and apostacy, the more need have they to be raised up and revived. It is usual for men to keep that well which was left them by their fathers, and for us either to oppose or industriously conceal any part of these their contendings, were not only an addition to the contempt already thrown upon the memories of these RENOWNED SIRES, but also an injury done to posterity. -- |Your honourable ancestors, with the hazard of their lives, brought Christ into our lands, and it shall be cruelty to posterity if ye lose him to them,| said one of these worthies to a Scots nobleman.
Again, some sceptical nullifidian or other may be ready to object farther, |That many things related in this collection smell too much of enthusiasm; and that several other things narrated therein, are beyond all credit.| But these we must suppose to be either quite ignorant of what the Lord did for our forefathers in former times, or else in a great measure destitute of the like gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, by which they were actuated and animated. For,
(1.) These worthies did and suffered much for Christ and his cause, in their day and generation, and therefore in a peculiar and singular manner were honoured and beloved of him; and although there are some things here narrated, of a pretty extraordinary nature, yet as they imply nothing contrary to reason, they do not forfeit a title to any man's belief, since they are otherwise well attested, nay obviously referred to a cause, whose ways and thoughts surmount the ways and thoughts of men, as far as the heavens are above our heads. -- The sacred history affords us store of instances and examples of a more transcendent nature than any thing here related; the truth of which we are at as little liberty to question, as the divinity of the book in which they are related.
(2.) As to the soul-exercise and pious devotion of these men herein related, they are so far supported by the authority of scripture, that there is mentioned by them (as a ground of their hope) some text or passage thereof, carried in upon their minds, suited and adapted to their cases and circumstances; by which faith they were enabled to lay claim to some particular promise, as a lamp unto their feet, a light unto their path, and this neither hypocrite nor enthusiast can do: For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. iii.11.
But then, it may be alleged by those who have a high esteem for this subject, That nothing is here given as a commendation suitable or adequate to the merit of these Worthies, considering their zeal, diligence and activity in the discharge of their duty, in that office or station which they filled. This indeed comes nearest the truth; for it is very common for biographers to pass eulogiums of a very high strain in praise of those whom they affect. But in these panegyrical orations, they oftimes rather exceed than excel. -- It was an ancient (but true) saying of the Jews, |That great men (and we may say good men) commonly find stones for their own monuments;| and laudable actions always support themselves: And a thing (as an author observes on the like subject) |if right, it will defend itself; if wrong, none can defend it: Truth needs not, falsehood deserves not a supporter.|
Indeed it must be regretted, that this collection is not drawn out with more advantage to the cause of Christ, and the interest of religion in commending the mighty acts of the Lord done for and by these worthy servants or his, in a way suitable to the merit and dignity of such a subject. But in this case it is the greater pity, |That those who have a goodwill to such a piece of service cannot do it, while those who should and can do it will not do it.| -- But in this I shall make no other apology, than what our Saviour (in another case) said to the woman, She hath done what she could.
All that I shall observe anent the form or method used in the following lives, is, that they are all, except one, ranged in order, according to the time of their exit, and not according to their birth; and that in general, the historical account of their birth, parentage, and memorable transactions is first inserted; and with as few repetitions as possible: Yea, sometimes to save a repetition, a fact is related of one Worthy in the life of another, which is not in his own life. Then follows their characteristic part, which oftimes is just one's testimony successively of another; and last of all, their works. -- That which is given in their own words, mostly stands in commas.
I know it is usual, when relating matters of fact, to make remarks or reflections, yet as this oftimes brings authors under suspicion of party zeal or partiality, they are designedly waved in the body of the book. -- Any thing of this kind is placed among other things in the marginal notes, where the reader is at a little more freedom to chuse or refuse as he pleases, only with this proviso, That truth be always regarded.
The last thing to be observed is, That as the credit due to this collection depends so much upon the authors from whom it was extracted, their names should have been inserted. However, the reader will find the most part of them mentioned in the notes; so that if any doubt of the veracity of any thing here related, they may have recourse to the original authors, some of whom, though enemies to reformation principles, nevertheless serve to illustrate the facts narrated in these memoirs, as nothing serves more to confirmation of either truth or historical facts, than the testimony of its opposers.
But to conclude; May the Lord arise and plead his own cause in putting a final stop to all manner of prevailing wickedness; and hasten that day when the glorious light of the gospel may shine forth in purity, and with such power and success as in former times, with an enlargement of the Mediator's kingdom, -- That his large and great dominion may be extended from the river to the ends of the earth, when all these heats, animosities and breaking divisions, that now prevail and increase among Christ's professed friends and followers, may be healed; that being cemented and knitted to one another, they may join heart and hand together in the matters of the Lord, and the concerns of his glory; when Ephraim shall no more envy Judah, and Judah shall no more vex Ephraim, but both shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines, Isa. xi.13.; with a further accomplishment of these with other gracious promises, -- And thine officers shall be peace, and thine exactors righteousness, &c.; and they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again the captivity of Zion. -- And that when we are endeavouring to perpetuate the memory of these worthies, or commemorate what the Lord did for and by our forefathers, in the days of old, we may be so auspicious as to have somewhat to declare of his goodness and wonderful works done for us in our day and generation also.
And if the following sheets shall in the least through divine grace, under the management of an over-ruling providence (which claims the care of directing every mean to its proper end) prove useful to the reclaiming of neutrals from backsliding courses, to the confirming of halters, and the encouraging of others to the like fortitude and vigorous zeal, to contend for our most valuable privileges (whether of a civil or a religious nature), then I shall think all my pains recompensed, and the end gained. For that many may be found standing in the way, to see and ask for the good old paths, and walk therein, cleaving to the law and to the testimony, would be the joy, and is the earnest desire of one, impartial reader, who remains thy friend and well-wisher in the truth,
July 21, 1775.
N. B. If any person or persons have or shall object to this or the former edition, that in transcribing these lives (particularly those who were formerly in print) I have curtailed them in favours of my own particular sentiment; I must here let them know, that it is entirely false; for I never omitted any thing to my knowledge, that I thought would be for the benefit of the public, where I had room to insert it: For I could heartily wish, that these lives were in whole re-printed; in the mean time, I cannot help thinking, that such reflections are or would be but a very slender or ungenteel requital for my past pains and labour.