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Archibald Campbell - Marquis of Argyle

This illustrious nobleman, having received a religious education, began very early to discover his zeal for the interests of the Presbyterian church. In 1638 he attended the General assembly which met at Glasgow, and contributed much by his presence and advice to give dignity and effect to it deliberations. Next year, and indeed for five years after, he was active in defending the same cause by his sword, which hitherto he had promoted by his talents and influence; and till the year 1648, might be regarded as the principal supporter of the covenanted reformation in Scotland. In 1649, he assisted in reinstating Charles II on his father's throne, and received many professions of favour from that monarch. Having afterwards, however, during the success of Cromwell, been induced to capitulate, though after many refusals; all his good services were forgotten, and at the king's return in 1660, he was arrested, and sent to the Tower of London, whence he was brought to Scotland to be tried by the parliament for alleged high treason. This was early in 1661. On the 25th of may that year, he was tried and condemned, and, on the 27th, he suffered the death of a traitor, though there can be no doubt the essence of his crime consisted in his rigid adherence to the Presbyterian interest.

His Last Words in Prison

After sentence, he was ordered to the common prison, where his excellent lady was waiting for him. Upon seeing her, he said, ' they have given me till Monday to be with you, my dear, therefore let us make for it.' She embraced him, wept bitterly, and said, ' The Lord will require it; the Lord will require it;' which drew tears from all in the room. But being himself composed, he said, ' Forbear, forbear. I pity them, they know not what they are doing. they may shut me in where they please, but they cannot shut God out from me. For my part, I am as content to be here as in the castle, and as content there as when at liberty; and I hope to be as content on the scaffold as any of them all.' He added, he remembered a scripture cited by an honest minister to him while in the castle, which he intended to put into practice:- When Ziklag was taken and burnt, the people spake of stoning David, but he encouraged himself in the Lord.'

He spent the short time, till Monday, with the greatest serenity and cheerfulness, and in the proper exercises of a dying Christian. To some ministers who were permitted to attend him, he said, ' That shortly they would envy him, who was got before them,' and added, ' Remember that I tell you, my skill fails me, if you who are ministers will not either suffer much or sin much; for though you go along with these men in part, if you do not all things, you are but where you were, and so must suffer; and if you go not at all with them you must but suffer.'

He also said, that he was naturally inclined to fear in his temper, but desired those about him, to observe that the Lord had heard his prayer, and removed all fear from him. Mr Robert Douglas and Mr George Hutcheson preached to him in the tollbooth on the Lord's day, and at his own desire, his lady took her leave of him that evening. His dear and much valued friend Mr David Dickson, it is said, was his bed fellow the last night he was in time.

The Marquis had a sweet time in the tollbooth as to the condition of his soul, and this still increased the nearer he approached his end; as he slept calmly and pleasantly the preceding night, so on Monday morning, though much engaged in settling his affairs in the midst of company, he had at intervals much spiritual conversation, and was so overpowered by a sensible effusion of the Holy Spirit, that he broke out on one occasion into a rapture, and said, ' I thought to have concealed the Lord's goodness, but it will not do. I am now ordering my affairs, and God is sealing my charter to a better inheritance, and just now saying to me, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.'

About this time he received an excellent letter from a certain minister, his friend, full of encouragement and comfort under his present circumstances. He then, with his own hand, wrote to his majesty in the following pathetic terms, respecting his family.

His Letter to the King

' Most sacred Sovereign, I doubt not but your majesty hath an account given you from others of the issue of that strange process and indictment laid against me, before this can come to your royal hands; of which, if I had been guilty according to the charge, I should have esteemed myself unworthy to breathe upon the earth; much less would I have presumed to make an application to your majesty. But of all those great crimes which have been charged upon me, there hath nothing been proven except a compliance with the prevalent usurping rebels, after they had subdued all your majesty's dominions; whereby I was forced, with many others, to submit unto their unlawful power and government, which was an epidemic disease and fault of the time.

' What measure soever I have met with, and whatever malice or calumny hath been cast upon me, yet it is my inexpressible joy and comfort under all these sufferings, that I am found free and acquitted of that execrable murder committed against the life of your royal father, which ( as I desire a comfortable appearance before the Judge both of the quick and the dead), my soul did ever abominate; for death, with the inward peace of my innocence, is much more acceptable to me than life itself, with the least stain of treachery.

'And now, hoping that the humble supplication of your majesty's dying subject may find some place within the large extent or your princely goodness and clemency, I have taken the boldness to cast the desolate condition of my poor wife and family upon your royal favour; for whatever may be your majesty's displeasure against myself, these I hope, have not done anything to procure your majesty's indignation, and since that family have had the honour to be faithful subjects, and serviceable to your progenitors, I humbly beg my faults may not extinguish the lasting merit and memory of those who have given so many signal proofs of constant loyalty for many generations. Orphans and widows, by special prerogative and command from God, are put under your protection and defence, that you suffer them not to be wronged; they will owe their preservation so entirely to your majesty's bounty and favour, that your countenance, and nothing else that's human, can be a shield against their ruin.

I shall add no more ; only being indebted to several of your majesty's good subjects, and your royal justice being the source and fountain of all equity, whereby all your people are preserved in their just rights and interests, I humbly beg that none of them may suffer for my fault, but that you would allow them satisfaction and payment of what is justly owing unto them, from those sums and debts which are truly resting to my son and me. And as it is my serious and last desire to my children and posterity, next to their duty to Almighty God, that they may be faithful and serviceable to your majesty; so were I to enjoy this frail life any longer, I would endeavour, before all the world, to evidence myself to be your majesty's most humble, devoted, and obedient subject and servant.'

After this, he dined precisely at twelve o'clock, in company with his friends, displaying great cheerfulness, and then retired a little. Upon his opening the door, Mr Hutcheson said, ' What cheer, my lord?' He answered, ' Good cheer, Sir, the Lord hath again confirmed and said to me from heaven, Thy sins be forgiven thee.' Upon this tears of joy flowed in abundance; he retired to the window and wept; from that came to the fire, and made as if he would stir it a little to conceal his concern; but it would not do, his tears ran down his face; and coming to Mr Hutcheson, he said, ' I think His kindness overwhelms me. But God is good to me, that He lets not out too much of it here, for He knows I could not bear it. Get me my cloak and let us go.' But being told that the clock was kept back till one, till the bailies should come, he answered, ' they are far in the wrong,' and presently kneeled and prayed before all present, in a most sweet and heavenly manner. As he ended, the bailies sent up word for him to come down, upon which he called for a glass of wine, and having asked a blessing to it, standing and continuing in the same frame, he said, ' Now let us go, and God be with us.'

After having taken his leave of such in the room as were not to go with him to the scaffold, going towards the door, he said, ' I could die like a Roman, but choose rather to die like a Christian. Come away, gentlemen, he that goes first goes cleanliest.' When going down stairs, he called the reverend Mr James Guthrie to him, and embracing him in a most endearing way, took his farewell of him; Mr Guthrie, at parting, addressed the Marquis thus, ' My lord, God hath been with you, He is with you, and will be with you. and such is my respect for your lordship, that if I were not under sentence of death myself, I would cheerfully die for your lordship,' So they parted to meet again in a better place on the Friday following.

Then, accompanied by several noblemen and gentlemen, mounted in black, he with his cloak and hat on, went down the street, and having mounted the scaffold, with great serenity, like one going to his Father's house, saluted all on it. Mr Hutcheson then prayed; after which his lordship addressed the spectators.

His Speech on the Scaffold

' Many will expect that I speak many things, and according to their several opinions and dispositions, so will their expectations be from me, and constructions of me; but I resolve to disappoint many, for I come not hither to justify myself, but the Lord, ' Who is holy in all His ways, and righteous in all His works, holy and blessed is His name;' neither come I to condemn others: I know many will expect that I speak against the hardness of the sentence pronounced against me; but I will say nothing to it. I bless the Lord, I pardon all men, as I desire to be pardoned of the Lord myself; let the will of the Lord be done; that is all that I desire.

'I hope that you will have more charity to me now, than you would have at another time, seeing I speak before the Lord, to whom I must give an account very shortly. I know very well that my words have had but very little weight with many; and that many have mistaken my words and actions both; many have thought me to be a great enemy to these great works, that have of late been brought to pass. But do not mistake me, good people; I speak it in the presence of the Lord, I entered not upon the work of reformation with any design of advantage to myself, or prejudice to the king and his government; as my latter will which was written, 1655, and thereafter delivered a friend ( in whose hands it still remains) can show. As for these calumnies that have gone abroad of me, I bless God, I know them to be no more; and as I go to make a reckoning to my God, I am free as to any of these, concerning the king's person or government. I was real and cordial in my desires to bring the king home, and in my endeavours for him when he was at home, and I had no correspondence with the adversaries' army, nor any of them, in the time when his majesty was in Scotland; nor had I any accession to his late majesty's horrid and execrable murder, by counsel or knowledge of it, or any other manner of way. This is a truth, as I shall answer to my Judge. And all the time his majesty was in Scotland, I was still endeavouring his advantage, my conscience bears me witness in it. So much to that particular. And (turning about) he said, I hope, gentlemen, you all will remember these.

' I confess, many look on my condition as a suffering condition; but I bless the Lord, that He hath gone before me, hath trod the wine press of the Father's wrath; by whose sufferings, I hope that my sufferings shall not be eternal. I bless Him that hath taken away the sting of my sufferings; I may say that my charter was sealed today; for the Lord hath said to me, ' Son be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee;' and so I hope my sufferings shall be very easy. And you know that the scripture says, ' the Captain of our salvation was made perfect by sufferings.'

I shall not speak much to these things for which I am condemned, lest I seem to condemn others; it is well known, it is only for compliance, which was the epidemical fault of the nation. I wish the Lord to pardon them: I say no more.

'There was an expression in these pages presented by me to the parliament of the 'contagion of these times,' which may by some be misconstrued, as if I intended to lay an imputation upon the work of reformation; but I declare, that I intended no such thing; but it only related to the corruptions and failings of men, occasioned by the prevailing of the usurping powers. ( At this he turned, and took them all witnesses.)

'Now gentlemen, concerning the nation, I think there are three sorts of people that take up much of the world, and of this nation.

There is:-

' 1st, the openly profane; and truly I may say, though I have been a prisoner, I have not had mine ears shut; I hear assuredly, that drinking, swearing, whoring, were never more common, never more countenanced than they are now. Truly, if magistrates were here, I would say to them, if they would lay forth their power for glorifying of God, by restraining this, they should fare the better; if they continue in not restraining, they shall fare the worse. I say no more, but either let people shun profanity, and magistrates restrain it, or assuredly the wrath of God shall follow it.

2nd, Others are not openly profane ( every one will not allow that), but yet they are proud in the matter; if matters go well as to their private interest, they care not whether the church of God sink or swim. But whatever they think, God has laid engagements upon Scotland; we are tied by covenants to religion and reformation; these that were then unborn are yet engaged; and in our baptism we are engaged to it. And it passes the power of all the magistrates under heaven to absolve them from the oath of God; they deceive themselves, and it may be, would deceive others that think otherwise. But I would caveat this; people will be ready to think this kind of institution to rebellion in me; but they are very far wrong that think religion and loyalty are not well consistent. Whoever they be that separate them, religion is not to be blamed, but they. It is true, it is the duty of every Christian to be loyal; yet, I think, the order of things are to be observed, as well as their nature; the order of religion, as well as the nature of it. Religion must not be the cockboat, it must be the ship. God must have what is His, as well as Caesar what is his; and these are the best subjects that are the best Christians. And that I am looked upon as a friend to reformation, is my glory.

3rd, there is another sort that are truly godly; and to speak to them, I must say what I fear, and every one hath reason to fear, (it is good to fear evil). It is true the Lord may prevent it; but if He did not, ( and truly I cannot see any probability of it), times are like either to be very sinning or very suffering times; and let Christians make their choice; there is a sad dilemma in the business, ' sin or suffer ' and surely, he that would choose to sin, shall not escape suffering; they shall suffer, but it may be, not as I do, (turning about, and pointing to the maiden) but worse; mine is but temporal, theirs shall be eternal, when I shall be singing, they shall be howling. Beware therefore of sin, whatever you are aware of, especially in such times.

Yet I cannot say of my own condition, but that the Lord in His providence hath mind of mercy to me, even in this world; for if I had been more favourably dealt with, I fear I might have been overcome with temptations as many others are, and many more I fear will be; and so should have gone out of this world with a more polluted conscience, than through the mercy of God now I have. And hence my condition is such now, as when I am gone, will be seen not to have been such as many imagined. It is fit that God take me away before I fall into these temptations that I see others falling into, and many others I fear will fall; I wish the Lord may prevent it. Yet blessed be His name, that I am kept both from present evils, and evils to come.' (Here he turned about a little, and spoke some words to Mr Hutcheson; when, turning again to the people, he spoke as follows.)

' Some may expect I will regret my own condition; but truly, I neither grudge nor repine, nor desire any revenge. and I declare I do not repent my last going up to London, for I had always rather have suffered anything, than lie under reproaches as I did. I desire not that the Lord should judge any man; nor do I judge any but myself; I wish, as the Lord hath pardoned me, so He may pardon them for this and other things; and that what they have done to me, may never meet them in their accounts. I have no more to say, but to beg the Lord, that when I go away, He would bless every one that  stays behind.'

(His last words, immediately before he laid his head on the block, after his doublet was off, were these:) ' I desire you, gentlemen, all that hear me this day to take notice, and I wish that all who see me might hear me , that now when I am entering into eternity, and am to appear before my Judge; and as I desire salvation, and do expect eternal salvation and happiness from Him, from my birth to my scaffold, I am free from any accession by my knowledge, concerning counsel, or any other way, to his late majesty's death; and I pray the Lord to preserve his majesty, and to pour His best blessings on his person and government; and the Lord give him good and faithful counsellors.' ( Turning about to his friends, he said, ) 'Many Christians may stumble at this, and my friends have no discredit of me, nor Christians no stumbling block, but rather an encouragement.'

When he had delivered this seasonable and pathetic speech, Mr Hamilton prayed; after which he prayed most sweetly himself; then he took his leave of all his friends on the scaffold. He first gave the executioner a napkin with some money in it; he gave to his sons in law, Caithness and Ker, his watch and some other things out of his pocket; he gave to Loudon his silver penner, to Lothian a double ducat, and then threw off his coat. When going to the maiden, Mr Hutcheson said, ' My lord, now hold your grip sicker.' He answered, ' You know, Mr Hutcheson, what I said to you in the chamber. I am afraid to be surprised with fear.' The laird of Skelmorlie took him by the hand, when near the maiden, and found him most composed. He kneeled down most cheerfully, and after he had prayed a little, he gave signal ( which was by lifting up his hand), and the instrument, called the maiden, struck off his head from his body.