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Biographia Scoticana Scots Worthies by John Howie

The Life of Sir ROB^T. HAMILTON of Preston.

Mr. Hamilton (afterwards Sir Robert Hamilton) brother to Sir William Hamilton of Preston, was born about 1650, and probably a son to Sir Walter Hamilton the reformer, and lineally descended from that famous Sir John Hamilton of Preston, who was commissioner for east Lothian at that black parliament held at Edinburgh, 1621, where he most boldly voted against the ratification of the five articles of Perth; for which, and because he would not recall his vote, the king's commissioner, the marquis of Hamilton, and the secretary, thought to have disgraced him, but found themselves utterly disappointed: For although they sent the bishop of Dumblane, and after him lord Scone for that purpose, he would not; and when by the secretary desired to absent, he told him, he would stay and bear witness to the truth, and would render his life and all he had, before he would recall one word he had spoke; and that they should find him as true to his word as any Hamilton in Scotland.

Mr. Hamilton having received a liberal education (as is usual for men in such circumstances) before he was twenty-six years of age or thereby, the Lord, in his free and sovereign mercy, and by the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit, inclined his heart to fall in love with his service; and for that purpose he made him attend the free and faithful, (though persecuted) gospel, at that time preached in the fields; whereby in a short time he came to espouse the true covenanted testimony of the church of Christ in Scotland, for which he was, through divine grace, enabled to be a true and faithful witness to his life's end.

The first of his public appearances, we find he made in defence of that noble cause wherein he had embarked, was in the year 1679; when (after consulting with faithful Mr. Cargil) he, with Mr. Thomas Douglas and faithful Rathillet, drew up that declaration (afterward called the Rutherglen declaration) which they published upon the 27th of May, at the market-cross of that burgh, after they had extinguished the bone-fires; that day being kept as a holy anniversary-day for the birth and restoration of Charles II. After this he returned with that little handful to Evandale, where he was by them appointed to command in chief June 1st, at the skirmish of Drumclog, wherein he shewed much bravery in putting Claverhouse and that bloody crew to light, killing 36 or 40 of them, Claverhouse himself narrowly escaping. But the Erastian party coming up to that little army shortly after this, created them and Mr. Hamilton their general no small disturbance, they being to them a snare upon Mispah, and a net spread upon Tabor. -- -- And though he most strenuously opposed them in all their sinful courses of defection and compliance, yet he was by them treacherously betrayed, in giving his consent to their publishing the Hamilton declaration; -- they promising to be faithful in all time coming in preaching against the indulgence and all the land's defections; and that what was ambiguous in that declaration should be, at the honest party's desire, explained, what was wrong should be left out, and what was wanting should be supplied, before it was printed, or otherwise published, save the reading of it that day: -- one word of which they never fulfilled or kept.

But it were a task too tedious here to enumerate all the struggles and contendings among them at that time; only it is to be remarked, that it was through Mr. Hamilton's great (I may say deserved) confidence in Mr. Cargil's faithfulness (who was the principal minister among those called the protesting party) that Mr. Hamilton was again by the corrupt party so pitifully ensnared in subscribing their declaration to the duke of Monmouth, when they were about to engage with the enemy: For they being intent upon supplicating, the honest party consented only that an information should be drawn up by Mr. Cargil and Mr. Morton, and sent to him, of his own and his father's rebellion against God, by their blasphemy, persecution and usurpation in church and state, &c. but the corrupt party drawing up their own supplication, sent one of their party with it in the one hand, and pen and ink in the other, to Mr. Hamilton to subscribe, just as they were going to engage the enemy. Mr. Hamilton asked, If it was Mr. Cargil's work? He answered, Yes, (whereas Mr. Cargil knew nothing of it). Whereupon, being in haste, and having no doubt of Mr. Cargil's veracity therein, he did that which was still matter of great grief to him afterwards, as he himself, in a letter from Holland dated 1685, doth fully testify.

After their defeat at Bothwel-bridge, Mr. Hamilton was by the Erastian party and their accomplices, most horridly stigmatized and reproached, as that he should have betrayed them to the enemy, sold them for money, swept the priming off the cannon at the bridge, &c. But from all these he has been by one (whom we must take to have been a very impartial writer on that affair) some time ago sufficiently vindicated; unto whom, for brevity's sake, the reader must at present be referred.

Shortly after Bothwel, he went over to Holland; upon which his estate was forfeited 1684, and he sentenced to be executed whenever apprehended. During his stay here he was of great service and use to his own countrymen, and had the honour to be employed by them as commissioner of the persecuted true Presbyterian church of Christ in Scotland, having received commission from them to represent their case, and crave the sympathy of foreign churches; and it was by his skill, industry and faithfulness in prosecuting this commission, that he prevailed with the presbytery of Groningen anno 1683, to ordain the famous and faithful Mr. James Renwick, a minister of the gospel, for the persecuted true Presbyterian church of Christ in Scotland. And afterwards, as their delegate with the presbytery of Embden, to ordain Mr. Thomas Lining a minister of the gospel for the same church.

Mr Hamilton, by virtue of his commissions which about that time he had received from the united societies, went through several places of Germany in the end of the year 1686: For an old manuscript (given under his own hand dated March 10th, 1687) bears, that through many hazards and difficulties, he arrived about the 10th of Oct. at Basil in Switzerland, from whence he went to Geneva about the 16th of Nov. and so into Bern, Zurich, and other places in Batavia and the Helvetian Cantons, not without many imminent hazards and dangers. In which places he conferred with the most part of their professors and other learned men, craving their judgment and sympathy toward his mother church, and the poor persecuted people in the kingdom of Scotland.

But having emerged forth of all these difficulties, he returned home at the revolution, about which time his brother Sir William Hamilton of Preston died, and he fell heir to his brother's estate and honours. And although after that he was still designed by the name of Sir Robert Hamilton of Preston, yet because he could not in conscience enter into, possess or enjoy that estate, unless he had owned the title of the prince and princess of Orange, as king and queen of these three covenanted nations, and in consequence of that own the prelatical government as then established, upon the ruins of the cause and work of God in these nations, -- he never entered or intermeddled with his brother's estate any manner of way; but with Moses he made that noble choice, rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season, and did esteem a stedfast adherence to the cause of Christ, (with all the reproaches that followed thereon) greater riches than all his brother's estate. For out of a true love to Jesus Christ, his covenanted cause, interest and people, he laid his worldly honour in the dust, continuing still a companion in the faith, patience, affliction and tribulation of that poor, mean and despised handful of the Lord's witnesses in these lands, who still owned and adhered unto the state of the Lord's covenanted cause in Scotland.

A little after his return from Holland, when Messrs. Lining, Shields and Boyd, were drawing and enticing those who had formerly been faithful for, and owning and suffering for the Lord's covenanted cause into a conformity and compliance with the defection of that time, in a general meeting held at Douglas on the 6th of November 1689, he gave a faithful protestation against these proceedings, as by them carried on, and particularly their owning the then government, while sworn to prelacy, in opposition to our laudable establishment and covenanted work of reformation: As also against the raising of the Angus regiment, which he took to be a sinful association with malignants: -- And likewise against joining with Erastian ministers at that time, from whom they had formerly most justly withdrawn, without any evidence of repentance, for the many gross sins and defections they were guilty of. -- And (as the last-cited author elsewhere observes) after these three ministers aforesaid had yielded up that noble cause, and drawn many of the owners thereof into the same state of compliance with them, he had the honour to be the chief instrument in the Lord's hand, in gathering together, out of their dispersion, such of the old sufferers as had escaped these defections that so many were fallen into, and in bringing them again unto an united party and general correspondence, upon the former laudable and honest state of the testimony.

And farther, he had also a principal hand in drawing up and publishing that faithful declaration, published at Sanquhar Aug.10, 1692, for which he was apprehended by some of the old persecuting soldiers, at Earlstoun, upon the 10th of Sep. following, and by them carried to Edinburgh, and there and elsewhere kept prisoner till the 5th of May 1693. When he was brought before the council, Sep.15th 1692, there were present the viscount of Tarbet, president Lothian, Ker, general Livingston, lord Linlithgow, lord Bradalbain, and Sir William Lockhart solicitor. He was by them examined concerning that declaration, but he declined them, and all upon whom they depended, as competent judges, because they were not qualified according to the word of God and our solemn covenants: And being interrogate, If he would take the oath of allegiance? he answered, No, it being an unlimited oath, not bottomed upon our covenants. If he would own the authority of K. William and Q. Mary? He answered, I wish them well. But being asked again, If he would own them and their government, live peaceably, and not rise against them? He answered, When they were admitted according to the laws of the crown, the acts of parliament 1648 and 1649, bottomed upon our sacred covenants and sound qualifications, according to these, pursuing the ends of these covenants, &c. then I shall give my answer. -- -- Whereupon some of them turned hot, and Lothian said, They were pursuing the ends of the covenant. To whom he replied, How can that be, when joining with, and exalting the greatest of its enemies, whom by covenant we are bound to extirpate. Another answered, He had taken the coronation oath. -- At which Mr. Hamilton asked, What religion was established when that oath was taken? They said, Prelacy was abolished. But he returned, Presbytery was not established, so that he is not bound to us in religion, save to prelacy in Scotland. But being urged to the last question, he adhered to his former answers; at which some of them raged, and said, He would give no security for obedience and peaceable living? To which he made answer saying, I marvel why such questions are asked at me, who have lived so retiredly hitherto, neither found plotting with York, France, or Monmouth, or any such, as the rumour was; nor acting any thing contrary to the laws of the nation enacted in the time of the purity of presbytery. Lothian said, We are ashamed of you. He replied, Better you be ashamed of me, than I be ashamed of the laws of the church and nation, whereof you seem to be ashamed. Lothian said, You desire to be involved in troubles. Sir Robert answered, I am not so lavish of either life or liberty; but if the asserting of truth was an evidence thereof, it might be thought more strange.

But being remanded back unto prison, where he continued until the 3rd of May 1693, that he was liberate. The day before his liberation he gave in a most faithful protestation and declinature to the privy council and parliament of Scotland, with another letter of the same nature to Sir James Stuart the advocate, and upon his coming forth of the tolbooth, he was so far from yielding one jot in the least, that he left another faithful protestation in the hands of the keepers of the tolbooth, shewing, that for his adhering to, and appearing for the fundamental laws and laudable constitution of our church and covenanted nation, he had been apprehended and kept for 8 months close prisoner, and that very unjustly; and that for his own exoneration and truth's vindication to leave this protestation; disdaining all engagements to live peaceably, which were a condemning himself of former unpeaceableness, which he positively denies; as also in coming in any terms of oaths or bonds with those who have broken covenants, overturned the reformation, and destroyed the people of God; or engaging unto a sinful peace with them, or any in confederacy with them, &c. declaring his present outcoming merely on the account of finding open doors, and desired his protestation to be inserted in the ordinary register, &c.

From his liberation to the day of his death, he continued most faithful in contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, Jude, ver.3.; and did greatly strengthen and encourage the rest of the suffering remnant, with whom he continued in Christian communion, both by his pious and godly example, and seasonable counsel and advice, with respect to principles, and what concerned the salvation of their souls, for the right carrying on the testimony for the cause that they were owning. Some years before his death, he was taken ill with the stone, by which he endured a very sharp and sore affliction, with a great deal of Christian patience and holy submission to the holy will of God; and when drawing near his journey's end, he gave a faithful testimony to the Lord's noble and honourable cause, which he had so long owned and suffered for: And upon the account of this gentleman's being most unjustly branded for running to some extremes in principles, both before and since the revolution, a copy of his own dying testimony may perhaps be the best vindication of him from such aspersions, that at present can be produced; which is as follows:

|Though I have many things that might discourage me from shewing myself this way at such a time, when the Lord's controverted truths, his covenanted reformation, and the wrestlings of his faithful and slain witnesses, are things so much flouted at, despised and buried, not only by the profane, but alas! even by the ministers and professors of this generation; yet I could not but leave this short line to you, who, of all interests in the world, have been my greatest comfort, being now come to the utmost period of my time, and looking in upon my eternal state, it cannot be readily apprehended by rational men, that I should dare to write any thing, but according to what I expect shortly to be judged, having had such a long time to consider on my ways, under a sharp affliction. As for my case, I bless God it is many years since my interest in him was secured, and under all my afflictions from all airths, he hath been a present help in time of my greatest need. I have been a man of reproach, a man of contention; but praise to him, it was not for my own things, but for the things of my Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever were my infirmities, yet his glory, the rising and flourishing of his kingdom, was still the mark I laboured to shoot at, nor is it now my design to vindicate myself from the calumnies that have been cast upon my name; for when his slain witnesses shall be vindicated, his own glory and buried truths raised up, in that day, he will assuredly take away the reproaches of his servants, and will raise and beautify the name of his living and dead witnesses: Only this I must add, Though that I cannot but say that reproaches have broken my heart, yet with what I have met with before, and at the time of Bothwel-battle, and also since, I had often more difficulty to carry humbly under the glory of his cross, than to bear the burden of it. O! peace with God, and peace of conscience is a sweet feast!

|Now as to his public cause, that he hath honoured you in some measure to side with, stand fast therein; let no man take your crown; for it is the road he will take in coming to this poor land; and praise him for honouring such poor things as you are, as to make you wish well to his cause, when church and state, and all ranks, have turned their back upon it: and my humble advice to you as a dying brother is, To stand still, and beware of all tampering with these betrayers of the royal interest, and concerns of Christ's kingdom, and listen to no conferences with the ministers and professors of this generation, till the public defections of this land from the doleful source of all our ruin and misery, that sin of the public resolutions, the compliance with prelacy, the church-ruining and dividing indulgences and toleration, until the present sinful course of vindicating all these defections, and burying all the testimonies against the same: I say, until these be acknowledged, and publicly rejected and disowned, both by church and state.

|I die a true Protestant, and to my knowledge a reformed Presbyterian, in opposition to popery, prelacy, and malignancy, and whatever is contrary to truth, and the power of godliness, as well against flattering pretenders to unwarrantable zeal on the right hand, as against lukewarmness on the left; adhering with my soul to the holy sweet scriptures, which have often comforted me in the house of my pilgrimage, our confession of faith, our catechisms, the directory for worship, covenants, national and solemn league and covenant, acknowledgment of sins and engagement to duties, with the causes of God's wrath, and to all the faithful public testimonies given against defections of old or late, particularly these contained in the informatory vindication, and that against the toleration, and the two last declarations emitted since this fatal revolution, which testimonies I ever looked upon as a door of hope of the Lord's returning again to these poor backslidden lands.

|And now, my dear friends, let nothing discourage you in that way. The Lord will maintain his own cause, and make it yet to triumph. The nearer to-day it may be the darker, but yet in the evening time it shall be light, and the farther distant ye keep from all the courses and interests of this generation, the greater will your peace and security be. O! labour to be in Christ, for him, and like him, much in reading of the holy scriptures, much in prayer and holy unity among yourselves. Be zealous and tender in keeping up your private fellowship for prayer and Christian conference, as also your public correspondences and general meetings, go to them and come from them as these intrusted, really concerned and weighted with Christ's precious controverted truths in Scotland, and labour still to take Christ along with you to all your meetings, and to behave yourselves as under his holy and all-seeing eye when at them, that ye may always return with a blessing from his rich hand.

|Now farewel, my dear Christian friends, the Lord send us a joyful meeting at his own right hand after time; which shall be the earnest desire, while in time, of your dying friend,|

Sic subscribitur,

Sept.5th, 1701.

And so, after he had come through many tribulations, and at last endured a series of sore bodily affliction, in all which he was still kept faithful, in testifying for the word of Christ's patience, until he yielded up his life to that God who gave him his being, at Borrowstoness, Oct.21st, being then 51 years of age; and because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Thus ended another of Christ's faithful witnesses, Sir Robert Hamilton, who (for soundness in the faith, true piety, the real exercise of godliness, a conversation becoming the gospel, and a true understanding of the right state of the Lord's cause in every part thereof, accompanied with a true love and affection to, and zeal according to knowledge for the same), with stedfastness and stability to the last, maintained his cause against every opposition (being equally superior to the influence of fear or flattery); and was preferable to the most part of his station in that age; and without flattery it may be said, he was an honour to the name of Hamilton and to his nation. The faithful Mr. Renwick called him Mi pater, my father, and ever had a high esteem and regard for him, as the contents of most part of his letters bear: Yea, in the very last letter he wrote, he accosts him thus, |If I had lived and been qualified for writing a book, and if it had been dedicated to any, you would have been the man; for I have loved you, and I have peace before God in that; and I bless his name that ever I have been acquainted with you, &c.| And indeed he was not mistaken in him, for he was one who both professed and practiced truth, was bold in Christ's cause, and had ventured life, wealth, reputation and all, in defence thereof. He was of such constancy of life and manners, that it might be truly said of him, which was said of the emperor Marcus Antoninus, In omni vita sui similis, nec ulla unquam in re mutatus fuit. Itaque vere fuit vir bonus, nec fictum aut simulatum quicquam habuit.

An ACROSTIC on his Name.

Sin wrought our death, death strikes and none doth spare; It levels sceptres with the plowing-share;
Raging among poor mortals every where.

Religion's lovers death must also own,
Or this brave soul his life had not laid down.
But weep not: Why? death challenges but dross,
Eternal gain compensates temporal loss;
Rest from his labour, sickness, grief and pain:
This makes him happy, and our mourning vain.

Had he not reason rather to be glad
At death's approach, that life he never had
Must meet him there? He enters now that land,
In view of which, believing, he did stand,
Longing for ling'ring death; still crying, Come;
Take me, Lord, hence, unto my father's home.
O faithless age! of glory take a sight;
Nor death nor grave shall then so much affright.

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