Walter Smith was son to Walter Smith in the parish of St. Ninian's, near Airth in Stirling-shire. He was an eminent Christian and good scholar. He went over to Holland, where he studied sometime under the famous Leusden, who had a great esteem and value for him, as being one both of high attainments and great experience in the serious exercise and solid practice of christianity.
In the year 1679, we find that he made no mean figure among that little handful of the Lord's suffering remnant, who rose in their own defence at Bothwel-bridge. -- For he was both chosen clerk to the council of war, and also a commanding-officer among the honest party; and had the honour not only to witness and protest against the sinful compliance of that corrupt Erastian party, that then foisted themselves in amongst them, but was also one of those three who were then appointed to draw up the causes of the Lord's wrath against the land, and the Hamilton declaration was to be one of the last causes thereof, with a new declaration which they intended to have published at that time; and although both of these were undertaken, yet the Lord did not honour them to publish the same, as some of them with great regret, unto their dying day, did acknowledge.
After the overthrow and dissipation of the covenanters at Bothwel (wherein the Erastian party among them had no little hand), it appears that Mr. Smith went over, for some time to Holland, but did not stay long; for we meet with him again with Mr. Cargil at Torwood, in Sept.1680, after which he was very helpful to him in his conversation and advice in difficult cases, and praying in families (when he was fatigued with sore travel, being an old man, and going then often on foot), and many times in public preaching days precenting for him.
He had a longing desire to preach Christ, and him crucified unto the world, and the word of salvation thro' his name. Mr. Cargil had the same desire, and for that end, it is said, had written to two ministers to meet him at Cummerhead in Lismehago in Clydesdale, but ere that day came, that door was closed (for they were in the enemies hands). However Mr. Smith followed the example of our blessed Lord and Saviour, in going about doing good, in many places and to many persons, in spiritual, edifying conversation, and was a singular example of true piety and zeal, which had more influence upon many than most part of the ministers of that day.
A little before his death he drew up twenty-two rules for fellowship or society meetings, which at that time greatly increased, from the river Tay to Newcastle, in which he was very instrumental, which afterwards settled unto a general and quarterly correspondence four times yearly, that so they might speak one with another, when they wanted the public preaching of the gospel; and to appoint general fasting days through the whole community, wherein their own sins, and the prevailing sins and defections of the times, were the principal causes thereof; and that each society was to meet and spend some time of the Lord's day together, when deprived of the public ordinances. Mr. Cargil said, That these society-meetings would increase more and more for a time; but when the judgment came upon these sinful lands, there would be few standing society-meetings, when there would be most need, few mourners, prayers, pleaders, &c. what through carnality, security, darkness, deadness and divisions.
But he was now well nigh the evening of his life, and his labours both. For having been with Mr. Cargil, when he preached his last sermon on Dunsyre common, betwixt Clydesdale and Lothian, he was next morning, by wicked Bonshaw (who had formerly traded in fine horses betwixt the two kingdoms), apprehended at Covington-mill. He was, with the rest of the prisoners, carried from Lanerk to Glasgow, and from thence taken to Edinburgh, where, upon the 15th of July, he was brought before the council, and there examined if he owned the king and his authority as lawful? He answered, |He cannot acknowledge the present authority the king is now invested with, and the exercise thereof, being now clothed with a supremacy over the church.| Being interrogate, If the king's falling from the covenant looses him from his obedience, and if the king thereby loses his authority? He answered, |He thinks he is obliged to perform all the duties of the covenant, conform to the word of God, and the king is only to be obeyed in terms of the covenant.| Being further interrogate anent the Torwood excommunication, he declared, He thought their reasons were just.
On the 19th he was again brought before them and interrogate, If he owned the Sanquhar declaration? It was then read to him, and he owned the same in all its articles, except that he looked not upon these persons as the formal representatives of the presbyterian church, as they called themselves. And as to that expression, The king should have been denuded many years ago, he did not like the word denuded, but said, What the king has done justifies the peoples revolting against him. As to these words, where the king is called an usurper and a tyrant, he said, Certainly the king is an usurper, and wished he was not a tyrant.
Upon the 20. he was with the rest, brought before the justiciary, where, being indicted in common form, their confessions were produced as evidences against them, and they all brought in guilty of high treason, and condemned to be hanged at the cross of Edinburgh upon the 27. and their heads to be severed from their bodies, and those of Messrs. Cargil, Smith and Boig to be placed on the Nether-bow, and the heads of the others on the West-port, all which was done accordingly.
After Mr. Cargil was executed, Mr. Smith was brought upon the scaffold, where he adhered to the very same cause with Mr. Cargil, and declared the same usurpation of Christ's crown and dignity, and died with great assurance of his interest in Christ, declaring his abhorrence of popery, prelacy, erastianism and all other steps of defection. He went up the ladder with all signs of cheerfulness, and when the executioner was to untie his cravat, he would not suffer him, but untied it himself, and calling to his brother, he threw it down, saying, This is the last token you shall get from me. After the napkin was drawn over his face, he uncovered it again, and said, I have one word more to say, and that is, to all who have any love to God and his righteous cause, that they would set time apart, and sing a song of praise to the Lord, for what he has done for my soul, and my soul saith, To him be praise. Then the napkin being let down, he was turned over praying, and died in the Lord, with his face bending upon Mr. Cargil's breast. These two cleaved to one another, in love and unity, in their life; and between them in their death, there was no disparity. Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided, &c.
The now glorified Mr. Walter Smith was a man no less learned than pious, faithful and religious. His old master, the professor of divinity at Utrecht in Holland (when he heard of his public violent bloody death of martyrdom), gave him this testimony, weeping, saying, in broken English, |O Smith! the great, brave Smith! who exceeded all that I ever taught. He was capable to teach many, but few to instruct him.| Besides some letters, and the forementioned twenty-two rules for fellowship meetings, he wrote also twenty-two steps of national defection; all which are now published; and if these, with his last testimony, be rightly considered, it will appear that his writings were inferior to few of the contendings of that time.