David Hackston of Rathillet, in the shire of Fife, is said in his younger years to have been without the least sense of any thing religious, until it pleased the Lord, in his infinite goodness, to incline him to go out and attend the gospel then preached in the fields, where he was caught in the gospel net, and became such a true convert, that after a most mature deliberation upon the controverted points of the principles of religion in that period, he at last embarked himself in that noble cause (for which he afterward suffered), with a full resolution to stand and fall with the despised persecuted people, cause and interest of Jesus Christ.
There is no account of any public appearance that this worthy gentleman made, amongst that party, until the 3d of May 1679, that we find him, with other eight gentlemen, who were in quest of one Carmichael, who, by means of the arch-bishop, had got commission to harrass and persecute all he could find (in the shire of Fife) for non-conformity; but not finding him, when they were ready to drop the search, they providentially met with their arch-enemy himself. Whenever they descried his coach, one of them said, It seems that the Lord hath delivered him into our hand; and proposed that they should choose one for their leader, whose orders the rest were to obey. Upon which they chose David Hackston for their commander; but he absolutely refused, upon account of a difference subsisting betwixt Sharp and him in a civil process, wherein he judged himself to have been wronged by the primate; which deed he thought would give the world ground to think, it was rather out of personal pique and revenge, which he professed he was free of. They then chose another, and came up with the coach; and having got the bishop out, and given him some wounds, he fell on the ground. They ordered him to pray, but, instead of that, seeing Rathillet at some distance, (having never alighted from his horse), he crept towards him on his hands and his feet, and said, Sir, I know you are a gentleman, you will protect me. -- To which he answered, I shall never lay a hand on you. At last he was killed; after which every one judged of the action as their inclinations moved them. However, the deed was wholly charged upon him (and his brother-in-law, Balfour of Kinloch) although he had no active hand in this action.
About the latter end of the same month of May, that he might not be found wanting to the Lord's cause, interest and people, upon any emergent or occasion, he, with some friends from Fife, joined that suffering handful of the covenanters at Evandale, where, after he and Mr. Hamilton, &c. had drawn up that declaration (afterward called the Rutherglen declaration), he and Mr. Douglas went to the market cross of Rutherglen, and upon the anniversary day the 29 of May, where they extinguished the bonefire, and published the said testimony. They returned back to Evandale, where they were attacked by Claverhouse, upon the first of June near Drumclog. Here Mr. Hackston was appointed one of the commanding officers (under Mr. Hamilton who commanded in chief), where he behaved with much valour and gallantry during that skirmish. -- After which he was a very useful instrument among that faithful remnant (as witness his repeated protests against the corrupt and Erastian party), and had an active hand in the most part of the public transactions among them, until that fatal day the 22d of June, where he and his troop of horse were the last upon the field of battle at Bothwel-bridge.
But, this worthy and religious gentleman, being now declared a rebel to the king (though no rebel to Zion's king), and a proclamation issued out, wherein was a reward offered of 10,000 merks to any who could inform of or apprehend him, or any of those concerned in the death of the arch-bishop of St. Andrews. Upon this and the proclamation after Bothwel, he was obliged to retire out of the way for about a year's space. In which time he did not neglect to attend the gospel in the fields, where-ever he could have it faithfully dispensed. But this pious gentleman, having run fast and done much in a little time, it could not be expected he should continue long, and upon the 22d of July 1680, having been with that little party a few days, who attended Mr. Richard Cameron at Airs-moss, they were surprized by Bruce of Earls-hall, Airly's troop and Strahan's dragoons.
Here, being commander in chief of that little band, and seeing the enemy approaching fast, he rode off to seek some strength of ground for their better advantage, and the rest followed; but seeing they could go no further, they turned back, and drew up quickly. Eight horse on the right, and fifteen on the left; and the foot who were but ill armed in the middle. He then asked, If they were all willing to fight? They all answered, They were. Both armies advanced, and a strong party of the enemies horse coming hard upon them, their horse fired, killed and wounded severals of them, both horse and foot; after which they advanced to the enemies very faces, when, after giving and receiving fire, valiant Hackston being in the front, finding the horse behind him broke, rode in among them, and out at a side, without any damage; but being assaulted by severals with whom he fought a long time, they following him and he them by turns, until he stuck in a bog, and the foremost of them, one Ramsay, one of his acquaintance, who followed him in, and they being on foot, fought with small swords, without much advantage on either side. But at length closing, he was struck down by three on horseback behind him; and falling after he had received three sore wounds on the head, they saved his life, which he submitted to. He was, with the rest of the prisoners, carried to the rear, where they gave them all a testimony of brave resolute men. After this he was brought to Douglas, and from thence to Lanerk, where Dalziel threatened to roast him for not satisfying him with answers. After which he and other three prisoners were taken to Edinburgh, where, by order of the council, they were received by the magistrates at the water-gate, and he set on a horse's bare back, with his face backward, and the other three laid on a goad of iron, and carried up the street (and Mr. Cameron's head on a halbert before them) to the parliament closs, where he was taken down, and the rest loosed by the hand of the hangman.
He was immediately brought before the council, where his indictment was read by the chancellor, and he examined, which examination and answers thereunto being elsewhere inserted at large, it may suffice here to observe, that being asked, if he thought the bishop's death murder? he told them, That he was not obliged to answer such questions; yet he would not call it so, but rather say, it was not murder. Being further asked, If he owned the king's authority, he replied, |That though he was not obliged to answer, yet as he was permitted to speak, he would say something to that; and 1st, That there could be no lawful authority but what was of God, and that no authority stated in a direct opposition to God could be of God, and that he knew of no authority nor justiciary this day in these nations, but what were in a direct opposition to God, and so could neither be of God nor lawful, and that their fruits were kything it, in that they were letting murderers, sorcerers, and such others at liberty from justice, and employing them in their service, and made it their whole work to oppress, kill and destroy the Lord's people.| Bishop Paterson asked, |If ever Pilate and that judicature, who were direct enemies to Christ, were disowned by him as judges?| He said, |He would answer no perjured prelate in the nation.| Paterson replied, |He could not be called perjured, since he never took that sacrilegious covenant.| Mr. Hackston said, |That God would own that covenant, when none of them were to oppose it, &c.| Notwithstanding these bold, free, and open answers, they threatened him with torture, but this he no-wise regarded.
Upon the 26th, he was again brought before the council, where he answered much to the same purpose as before. The chancellor said, He was a vicious man. He answered, That while he was so, he had been acceptable to him, but now when otherwise it was not so. He asked him, If he would yet own that cause with his blood, if at liberty? -- He answered, That both their fathers had owned it with the hazard of their blood before him. Then he was called by all a murderer. -- He answered, God should decide it betwixt them, to whom he referred it, who were most murderers in his sight, him or them. Bishop Paterson's brother, in conference, told him, That the whole council found that he was a man of great parts, and also of good birth. He said, That for his birth, he was related to the best of the kingdom, which he thought little of, and as for his parts, they were very small; yet he trusted so much to the goodness of that cause for which he was a prisoner, that if they would give God that justice, as to let his cause be disputed, he doubted not to plead it against all that speak against it.
Upon the 27, he was taken before the justiciary, where he declined the king's authority as an usurper of the prerogative of the Son of God, whereby he had involved the land in idolatry, perjury and other wickedness; and declined them as exercising under him the supreme power over the church, usurped from Jesus Christ, &c. and therefore durst not, with his own consent, sustain them as competent judges; but declined them as open and stated enemies to the living God, and competitors for his throne and power, belonging to him only.
On the 29, he was brought to his trial, where the council, in a most unprecedented manner, appointed the manner of his execution; for they well knew his judges would find him guilty. And upon Friday the 30th, being brought again before them, they asked, If he had any more to say. -- -- He answered, What I have said I will seal. Then they told him, They had something to say to him; and commanded him to sit down and receive his sentence, which he did, but told them, They were all murderers; for all the power they had was derived from tyranny; and that these years bygone they had not only tyrannized over the church of God, but also grinded the faces of the poor, so that oppression, perjury and bloodshed were to be found in their skirts.
Upon this, he was carried from the bar on a hurdle drawn backwards, unto the place of execution at the cross of Edinburgh. None were suffered to be with him but two bailies, the executioner and his servants. He was permitted to pray to God Almighty but not to speak to the people. Being come upon the scaffold, his right hand was struck off, and a little after his left; which he endured with great firmness and constancy. The hangman being long in cutting off the right hand, he desired him to strike in the joint of the left, which being done, he was drawn up to the top of the gallows with a pully, and suffered to fall down a considerable way upon the lower scaffold three times with his whole weight, and then fixed at the top of the gallows. Then the executioner, with a large knife, cut open his breast, and pulled out his heart, before he was dead, for it moved when it fell on the scaffold. He then stuck his knife in it, and shewed it on all sides to the people, crying, Here is the heart of a traitor. At last, he threw it into a fire prepared for that purpose, and having quartered his body, his head was fixed on the Nether-bow; one of his quarters, with his hands at St. Andrews; another at Glasgow; a third at Leith; and the fourth at Bruntisland. -- -- Thus fell this champion for the cause of Christ, a sacrifice unto prelatic fury, to gratify the lust and ambition of wicked and bloody men. Whether his courage, constancy or faithfulness had the pre-eminency it is hard to determine. -- But his memory is still alive, and it is better to say no more of him, than either too much or too little.