Mr. John Welwood, born about the year 1649, was son to Mr. James Welwood, sometime minister at Tindergirth (and brother to Mr. Andrew Welwood and James Welwood doctor of medicine at London). After he had gone through the ordinary courses of learning he entered on the ministry, and afterwards preached in many places, but we do not hear that he was ever settled minister in any parish, it being then a time when all who intended any honesty or faithfulness in testifying against the sins and defections of the times, were thrust out of the church and prosecuted with the greatest extremity. It is said, that he preached some five or six sermons in the parish where his father was minister, which were blessed with more discernible effects of good amongst that people than all the diligent painfulness his father had exercised in the time he was minister of that parish.
And besides his singular piety and faithfulness in preaching, he was a most fervent presser to all the duties of the christian life, particularly to the setting up and keeping of fellowship and society meetings, for prayer and christian conference, which he often frequented himself. One time, among several others, at the new house in Livingston parish, after the night was far spent, he said, Let one pray, and be short that we may win to our apartments before it be light; it was the turn of one who exceeded many in gifts. -- -- But before he ended it was day-light within the house. After prayer he said, James, James, your gifts have the start of your graces: And to the rest he said, Be advised, all of you, not to follow him in all times and in all things, otherwise there will be many ins and many outs in your tract and walk.
Anno 1677, there was an Erastian meeting of the actually indulged and non-indulged, procured by the indulged and their favourites, in order to get unity made and kept up (but rather in reality a conspiracy without any truth, unity or veracity among these backsliders and false prophets). -- Mr. Welwood, worthy Mr. Cameron, and another minister were called before this meeting, in order to have them deposed, and their licence taken from them, for their faithfulness in preaching up separation from the actually indulged. But they declined their authority, as being no lawful judicatory of Jesus Christ, whilst thus made up of those who were actually indulged. Some of them went to Mr. Hog, who was then in town, though not at this meeting, for his advice anent them. To whom he said, His name is Welwood, but if ye take that unhappy course to depose them, he will perhaps turn out their Torwood at last.
Mr. Welwood was a man of a lean and tender body. He always slept, ate and drank but little, as being one still under a deep exercise, the state and case of his soul laying a great concern upon his spirit, about the defections and tyranny of that day, especially concerning the indulged, and so many pleading in their favour. But, being of a sickly constitution before, he turned more melancholy and tender. Much about this time, he was informed against to the managers at Edinburgh, that having intruded upon the kirk of Tarboltoun, in the shire of Ayr; the council appointed Glencairn and lord Ross to see that he be turned out and apprehended; but there is nothing further can be learned anent this order.
One Sabbath when he was going to preach, and the tent set up for him, the laird on whose ground it was, caused lift it, and set it on another laird's ground. But when Mr. Welwood saw it, he said, in a short time that laird shall not have one furr of land. Some quarrelled him for saying so (this laird being then a great professor). He said, Let alone a little and he will turn out in his own colours. Shortly after this, he fell out in adultery, and became most miserable and contemptible, being, as was said, one of York's four pound papists.
In the beginning of the year 1679, he said to William Nicolson a Fife-shire man, Ye shall have a brave summer of the gospel this year, and for your further encouragement an old man or woman for very age may yet live to see the bishops down, and yet the church not delivered, but ere all be done we will get a few faithful ministers in Scotland to hear; but keep still amongst the faithful poor mourning remnant that is for God, for there is a cloud coming on the church of Scotland, the like of which was never heard; for the most part will turn to defection. -- -- But I see, on the other side of it, the church's delivery, with ministers and christians, that you would be ashamed to open a mouth before them.
Among his last public days of preaching, he preached at Boulterhall in Fife, upon that text, Not many noble, &c. Here he wished that all the Lord's people, whom he had placed in stations of distinction, there and everywhere would express their thankfulness that the words not many were not not any, and that the whole of them were not excluded. In the end of that sermon he said, (pointing to St. Andrews) |If that unhappy prelate Sharp die the death of all men, God never spoke by me.| The bishop had a servant, who, upon liberty from his master on Saturday's night, went to visit his brother, who was a servant to a gentleman near Boulterhall (the bishop ordering him to be home on Sabbath night). He went with the laird, and his brother that day. Mr. Welwood noticed him with the bishop's livery on, and when sermon was ended, he desired him to stand up, for he had somewhat to say to him. |I desire you, said he, before all these witnesses when thou goest home, to tell thy master, that his treachery, tyranny and wicked life are near an end, and his death shall be both sudden, surprising, and bloody; and as he hath thirsted after and shed the blood of the saints, he shall not go to his grave in peace, &c.| The youth went home, and at supper the bishop asked him, If he had been at a conventicle? He said, He was. He asked, What his text was, and what he said? The man told him several things, and particularly the above message from Mr. Welwood. The bishop made sport of it. But his wife said, I advise you to take more notice of that, for I hear that these men's words are not vain words.
Shortly after this he went to Perth, and there lodged in the house of one John Barclay. His bodily weakness increasing, he was laid aside from serving his Master in public; and lingered under a consumptive distemper until the beginning of April 1679, when he died. During the time of his sickness, while he was able to speak, he laid himself out to do good to souls. None but such as were looked upon to be friends to the persecuted cause knew that he was in town; and his practice was, to call them in, one family after another, at different times; and discourse to them about their spiritual state. His conversation was both convincing, edifying and confirming. Many came to visit him, and among the rest one Aiton, younger of Inchdarny in Fife, (a pious youth about eighteen years of age) and giving Mr. Welwood an account of the great tyranny and wickedness of prelate Sharp, Mr. Welwood said, |You will shortly be quit of him, and he will get a sudden and sharp off-going, and ye will be the first that will take the good news of his death to heaven.| Which literally came to pass the May following.
About the same time he said to another who came to visit him, |that many of the Lord's people should be in arms that summer for the defence of the gospel; but he was fully persuaded that they would work no deliverance; and that, after the fall of that party, the public standard of the gospel should fall for some time, so that there would not be a true faithful minister in Scotland, excepting two, unto whom they could resort, to hear or converse with, anent the state of the church; and they would also seal the testimony with their blood; and that after this there should be a dreadful defection and apostacy; but God would pour out his wrath upon the enemies of his church and people, wherein many of the Lord's people, who had made defection from his way should fall among the rest in this common calamity; but this stroke, he thought, would not be long, and upon the back thereof there would be the most glorious deliverance and reformation that ever was in Britain, wherein the church should never be troubled any more with prelacy.|
When drawing near his end, in conversation with some friends, he used frequently to communicate his own exercise and experience, with the assurance he had obtained of his interest in Christ, he said, |I have no more doubt of my interest in Christ, than if I were in heaven already.| And at another time he said, |Although I have been for some weeks without sensible comforting presence, yet I have not the least doubt of my interest in Christ. I have oftentimes endeavoured to pick a hole in my interest, but cannot get it done.| That morning ere he died, when he observed the light of the day, he said, |Now eternal light, and no more night and darkness to me.| -- And that night he exchanged a weakly body, a wicked world, and a weary life, for an immortal crown of glory, in that heavenly inheritance which is prepared and reserved for such as him.
The night after his exit his corpse was removed from John Barclay's house into a private room, belonging to one Janet Hutton (till his friends might consult about his funeral) that so he might not be put to trouble for concealing him. It was quickly spread abroad that an intercommuned preacher was dead in town, upon which the magistrates ordered a messenger to go and arrest the corpse. They lay there that night, and the next day a considerable number of his friends in Fife, in good order, came to town in order to his burial, but the magistrates would not suffer him to be interred at Perth, but ordered the town militia to be raised, and imprisoned John Bryce, box-master or treasurer to the guildry, for returning to give out the militia's arms. However the magistrates gave his friends leave to carry his corpse out of town, and bury them without their precincts, where they pleased. But any of the town's people, who were observed to accompany the funeral were imprisoned. After they were gone out of town, his friends sent two men before them to Drone, four miles from Perth, to prepare a grave in that church-yard. The men went to Mr. Pitcairn, the minister there (one of the old resolutioners), and desired the keys of the church-yard that they might dig a grave for the corpse of Mr. Welwood, but he refused to give them. They went over the church-yard-dyke and digged a grave, and there the corpse was interred.
There appears to be only one of his sermons in print (said to be preached in Bogles-hole in Clydesdale), upon 1 Peter iv.18. And if the righteous scarcely be saved, &c. --
There are also some of his religious letters, written to his godly friends and acquaintances, yet extant in manuscript. But we are not to expect to meet with any thing considerable of the writings of Mr. John Welwood, or the succeeding worthies; and no wonder, seeing that in such a broken state of the church, they were still upon their watch, haunted and hurried from place to place, without the least time or conveniency for writing; yea, and oftentimes what little fragments they had collected, fell into the hand of false friends and enemies, and were by them either destroyed or lost.